Lebanese MPs sleep in parliament to press for end to impasse

Published January 21, 2023
<p>A handout picture released by Lebanese MP Firas Hamdan (R) on Jan 20 shows a group of Lebenese lawmakers sitting at the parliament in Beirut. — AFP</p>

A handout picture released by Lebanese MP Firas Hamdan (R) on Jan 20 shows a group of Lebenese lawmakers sitting at the parliament in Beirut. — AFP

BEIRUT: Two independent Lebanese lawmakers have spent the night in parliament to press for the election of a new president, as factional deadlock leaves the country largely leaderless amid a deepening economic crisis.

“We slept here, and we hope that today will bring new hope to Lebanon,” said lawmaker Najat Saliba in a video posted on social media on Friday.

Fellow MP Melhem Khalaf said it was urgent to elect a president “who can save Lebanon”, in an online message posted the night before.

Lebanon has been without a head of state since Michel Aoun left office at the end of October, while the government is operating in a caretaker capacity.

The Lebanese pound plunged to a new low against the US dollar this week as parliament failed for an 11th time to agree on a new president, amid squabbling between supporters and opponents of powerful militant group Hezbollah.

Khalaf said in his message the sit-in aimed to push parliament to hold “continuous sessions” to elect a new head of state.

“We will not leave,” the former Beirut Bar Association chief had told reporters on Thursday.

He and Saliba were elected in 2022 on the back of protests three years ago against the factional elite which has dominated Lebanese politics since the 1975-1990 civil war and which is widely blamed for the country’s economic woes.

Several other independent lawmakers visited the pair in the evening, while journalists were not authorised to enter the building.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2023

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