BEIRUT: Future Movement and Lebanese Forces MPs said Monday that their parliamentary blocs would attend a legislative session next week because its agenda contains “legislation of necessity,” after uncertainty over their participation.
The two-day session is set to take place Nov. 12-13, despite politicians being divided over whether Parliament should convene to legislate before the government is formed. The formation process has hit obstacle after obstacle since May, with the latest hitch being the representation of Sunni MPs from outside the Future Movement.
“According to the Constitution, Parliament can legislate” without a government, Future MP Mohammad Hajjar said. “But we feel that it is lacking. You need a government to implement these laws.”
Still, he told The Daily Star, “in principle, we are going to attend because there were contacts between [Speaker Nabih] Berri and [Prime Minister-designate Saad] Hariri before the decision was made [to hold the session], and an understanding was reached.”
But Hajjar said a formal decision on the matter would be issued Tuesday following Future’s weekly meeting. “There are some laws on the agenda that are of necessity and need to be passed,” he said, adding that the bloc may choose not to vote on laws that it deems not urgent.
Similarly, LF MP Joseph Ishaq said in principle the LF would also attend, but take a formal decision on the matter by Tuesday night.
Like Hajjar, Ishaq said the agenda contained a series of bills that were “of necessity,” including one related to securing funds for cancer drugs.
Parliament’s previous legislative session, held in September, ended abruptly on the evening of its second day when LF lawmakers and some Future MPs left the chamber because Berri refused to bring the same cancer-drug-funding bill up for a vote from outside the agenda.
The Future MPs had also wanted a bill tied to the loans for the expansion of Tripoli’s port to be voted on from outside the agenda, but Berri refused that too.
Thirty-eight draft laws are on Parliament’s agenda for next week.
As if to appease the lawmakers’ demands and ensure their attendance, Berri set the loans for the expansion of Tripoli’s port as the first and second items, while the funds for cancer drugs are item No. 10.
Another bill would allow the Finance Ministry to release LL642 billion ($426 million) to buy fuel for Lebanon’s power plants and two Turkish power barges supplying electricity to the country. Over the weekend, Electricite du Liban reduced Lebanon’s energy production by more than 320 megawatts to conserve its remaining fuel reserves, because politicians failed to secure the money for the fuel.
However, caretaker Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil Monday announced that Algerian company Sonatrach had agreed to provide Lebanon the fuel it required without immediately paying for it – a temporary “loophole” solution until the Finance Minister can disburse the funds.
Another electricity-related provision on the agenda is a bill that would extend EDL’s concession to Electricite du Zahle by two years.
Abi Khalil has said he would not renew the concession, which is set to run out at the end of the year, even though all of Zahle’s MPs, other than two – who like Abi Khalil belong to the Free Patriotic Movement – have expressed support for the extension.
Also on the agenda is a draft law creating a national commission with a mandate to investigate the fate of the 17,514 people who went missing during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). The item was placed at the end of the September session’s 29-item agenda, but it is now 19th, and so it has a greater chance of being put up for a vote.
But, Hajjar said when asked whether Future MPs would vote on the bill, “we’ll have to see.”
Lawmakers are also set to vote on a series of loans from the Islamic Development Bank for the development of the health care sector, and a bill that exempts cars damaged during Israel’s 2006 War on Lebanon and the 2007 Nahr al-Bared clashes near Tripoli from paying yearly expenses, known locally as the “mechanique.”
The agenda finally includes a bill that would create a natural reserve in the Jabal Rihan area in southern Jezzine, and a bill aimed at finding employment for successful applicants to the Civil Service Council who remain unemployed because of a lack of openings for them.
Various amendments to the customs and criminal laws are also set to be voted on, as well as a project to give Zahle a 24-member municipal council, a law aimed at making minibus license plates smaller, a law to allow municipalities to sell electricity generated from solid waste management to EDL, and a law that would sign Lebanon on to the 2015 International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives.