Lebanon's parliament ratifies 24 articles

Lebanon's parliament ratifies 24 articles
Lebanon's parliament convened for the first time since May 2014, ratifying 24 articles in a bid to secure international loans, but failed to elect a president yet again.
4 min read
12 November, 2015
Lebanese speaker Nabih Berri (C) with lawmakers during parliamentary session, November 12, 2015 [Hussein Baydoun/AAAJ]
Lebanon's parliament convened on Thursday, for the first legislative session since May 2014, to discuss financial issues and a draft law that would grant the nationality to expatriates of paternal Lebanese descent.

It comes after most parties, who had previously boycotted the sessions, reached an agreement over the agenda.

Parliament ratified 24 articles that were on its agenda, according to several lawmakers who talked to al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Most of the articles discussed were related to urgent equipment and infrastructure needed by the Lebanese Army.

Many Lebanese expatriates and foreign residents who were born in Lebanon are affected by the Lebanese nationality law, which dates back to 1925
The session was adjourned until the afternoon, when it is scheduled to discuss the nationality law.

Politicians did not agree to elect a president ahead of Thursday's session.

This prompted Sami Gemayel, the head of the Kataeb Party - one of the Christian parties whose allies in the March 14 camp are attending the parliament meeting - to boycott the session and call it "unconstitutional" despite announcing his support for the nationality law.

The majority of other lawmakers are attending.

Failure to elect president

On Wednesday, parliament failed to elect a president for the 31st time for lack of quorum.

The Lebanese Constitution states that the president of the republic should come from a Christian Maronite (Catholic) background.

Lebanon's parliament needs to ratify loan agreements before a 31 December deadline.

Major donors like the World Bank and France have warned that Lebanon could lose important loans necessary for the country's infrastructure projects, including the Bisri Dam project in the south, building schools, and providing electricity.

Donors have already annulled some funds to Lebanon this year because the loans were not officially approved. They say that they could not continue to delay them and that there are other countries that need them.

Citizenship draft law

Lebanese political leaders on Wednesday each announced their party's participation one after the other after a deal was made to include a citizenship draft law on the session's agenda.

Many Lebanese expatriates and foreign residents who were born in Lebanon are affected by the Lebanese nationality law, which dates back to 1925.

The law, if ratified, would grant citizenship to the descendants of Lebanese expatriates. However, it is unlikely that the discussion this afternoon will include the right for Lebanese women to grant the nationality to their children and their foreign spouses.

Many Palestinian men who were born in Lebanon and are married to Lebanese women could not register their children as Lebanese at birth.

The leader of the Future Movement (the largest party representing Sunni Muslims), former prime minister, Saad Hariri, announced from the Saudi capital Riyadh on Wednesday evening that the different political party had agreed to attend Thursday's session.

However, Hariri said that after Thursday's session the Future Movement will not attend any legislative session that will not be aimed at addressing the parliamentary electoral draft law.

Hariri's ally and leader of the Lebanese Forces (Christian party) Samir Geagea said that his party will attend the session "to vote on the financial and nationality laws in order to prepare for a new electoral law."

Geagea and General Michel Aoun, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement who is allied with the March 8 camp, were both promised that the electoral law will be discussed following the approval of the nationality law.

Hizballah's chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah who is allied with Aoun called for a "national all-inclusive settlement." The party's lawmakers will also attend the session.

In a speech that was broadcast on big screens in the Beirut suburbs and southern and eastern Lebanese cities, Nasrallah told his supporters: "All of us must sit down and put all the files on the table and reach a national settlement over everything, from the presidency issue to a new electoral law."

Political gridlock

Lebanon's institutions have been in a gridlock for so many years and many important issues who should take priority have been ignored.

Lebanon has not ratified a national budget since 2005 and therefore the country's control over spending and its financial institutions have become very fragile and have fallen under the mercy of political bickering and corruption.

The country has not been able to benefit at all from natural gas and oil resources that were discovered a few years ago within its maritime borders.

Other pressing matters are the garbage crisis and health and environmental issues that had sparked wide protests in the country last summer.