Lebanese MPs to camp out in parliament until new president is elected read full article at worldnews365.me







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BEIRUT — After Lebanon’s eleventh unsuccessful session to elect a president final week, two impartial lawmakers merely refused to go house, staging a sit-in at parliament to spur their colleagues to motion because the nation slips additional into financial damage.

Parliamentarians Najat Saliba and Melhem Khalaf have been camped out within the parliamentary constructing within the capital Beirut since Jan. 19, sending an open name to different members of parliament to hitch them, meet quorum and eventually elect a brand new president.

“The only way we can start making reforms, or make any attempt to stop the deterioration of the lira, and to make any attempt to get anything in the country, we need a cabinet,” Saliba advised The Washington Put up. “And the only way we can get a cabinet is by electing a president.”

She was talking by Zoom on Tuesday night time from the darkness of the curved parliament corridor, the place electrical energy is barely accessible from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. “It’s pitch dark,” mentioned Saliba, however they’re making do with projectors and battery-powered lamps.

“It’s not that bad,” she added. “I think people are suffering a lot more than us.”

Lebanese member of parliament Najat Saliba on Jan. 24 described the darkish room of her parliamentary sit-in. (Video: Joe Snell/The Washington Put up)

The nation’s electrical energy scarcity is one among many concurrent calamities which have engulfed Lebanon since 2019, when tens of hundreds of individuals stuffed the streets to protest a spiraling monetary disaster and the endemic corruption that has lengthy divided the nation into haves and have-nots — a divide that has solely grown within the years since.

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The Lebanese pound is in free-fall: Earlier than the disaster, it was pegged at 1,507 kilos to the greenback, and whereas the peg is technically nonetheless in place, folks trade {dollars} at risky black-market charges that may change day by day, even hourly. On Wednesday, the pound reached a brand new file low: 57,000 kilos to the greenback, already down 35 p.c since Jan. 1.

The decline of the pound has condemned a lot of the nation to poverty. It has additionally widened the gulf between those that receives a commission in {dollars} and those that receives a commission within the native foreign money — a baffling change to most Lebanese, who for many years had used each banknotes interchangeably.

Within the absence of official information from the federal government, whose final official census was in 1932, the World Meals Program estimates that 46 p.c of Lebanese households have bother assembly their primary meals wants.

Beirut was as soon as synonymous with wild occasion scenes and opulent accommodations; now, males, ladies and youngsters roam the streets begging for cash, meals, medication and water.

“We have no power to do anything but watch the people suffer and run after their daily, human, basic rights,” Saliba mentioned. “With a vacuum like this, people are left alone to fend for themselves. This is the worst disastrous situation you can ask for.”

“In order to break the cycle of stalling, and to break the cycle of not doing anything, we decided to sit in the government here, in the parliament, and call for action,” she continued.

Lebanese member of parliament Najat Saliba on Jan. 24 described why she staged a parliamentary sit-in. (Video: Joe Snell/The Washington Put up)

The time period of Lebanon’s earlier president, Michel Aoun, completed on the finish of October, and lots of fear that the publish will stay vacant indefinitely.

Their fears usually are not unfounded: The final emptiness dragged on for 29 months, paralyzing the nation for greater than two years earlier than Aoun took workplace in October 2016. The presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian, following a power-sharing deal that ended a bloody 15-year civil conflict in 1990.

The present caretaker authorities has restricted powers, and with parliament in a state of election, Saliba defined, all legislative capabilities are on maintain. It’s a “ridiculous” scenario, she mentioned, that demanded determined measures.

“We would go and cast a white paper vote, and leave without even waiting to know the results,” she mentioned. “So we were like sitting there, witnessing a whole mockery of the system. This drove us really crazy, and we started thinking what would be the best way to push those people, to assume the responsibilities to the fullest, [to] think about the best way to elect the president, especially as we are witnessing the worst economic collapse.”

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The sit-in has led to some progress, Saliba mentioned. Thirty-one of their fellow parliamentarians have visited to point out help, some dropping by usually to speak, others sleeping over in rotations. “But they’re not enough. Thirty-one people cannot elect a president.”

Within the first spherical of voting, a profitable candidate wants 86 votes, or a two-thirds majority of the 128 sitting MPs. To date, no candidate has acquired greater than 44 votes. Opposing political events have refused to achieve throughout the aisle.

“We cannot wait,” Saliba mentioned, including that constitutionally, parliamentarians can collect at any second to vote, with out ready for a name by the speaker of the parliament. However the majority of MPs have steered away from the corridor.

Lebanese member of parliament Najat Saliba mentioned on Jan. 24 the federal government can not wait lengthy earlier than electing a brand new president. (Video: Joe Snell/The Washington Put up)

Saliba mentioned she and her like-minded colleagues are in it for the lengthy haul, and can proceed sleeping on the few couches scattered across the constructing till the impasse is damaged. Sporting a coat inside within the absence of heating, Saliba’s face lit up when requested if meals supply was accessible.

“There’s so much food,” she laughed. In quintessentially Lebanese trend, the lawmakers’ constituents have been supporting them with meals, fruits, dessert and low. “People keep sending us food,” she mentioned, shaking her silver hair in disbelief.

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