Lebanese parliament: An assembly of wonders, excelling at nothing

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Lebanese MPs vote attend a parliamentary session to extend their own term. Al-Akhbar/Haitham al-Musawi

By: Roula Ibrahim

Published Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Lebanese parliament has broken many records, in a way that may nominate it to enter the Guinness Book of World Records. Nearly two thirds of the members of parliaments (MPs) who have extended their terms for a second time now are past the legal retirement age. The Lebanese MPs also happen to include some of the longest serving in the world, possibly, in addition to the laziest, most silent, most absent, and least qualified.

Nabatieh MP Abdul-Latif al-Zein has served 52 years in parliament, potentially qualifying him to become the longest-serving lawmaker in the world. The southern ‘beik’ entered parliament in 1963 when he was 30. Now at 82, he is still serving in parliament. His term is expected to end when he is 84, that is, if his term is not extended again, which would put his years in service close to 60.

Despite this, Zein has a good track record. He is one of the MPs from the “good old days” – good compared to the bad times we live in now, where the majority of MPs in Nejmeh Square provide zero services and zero legislations.

In numbers and figures, in addition to the long-serving MPs from the parliament of 1972, such as MP Zein and MP Boutros Harb, there are a number of parliamentarians who, by the end of their twice-extended term, will have served 25 years in parliament, such as Speaker Nabih Berri, MP Walid Jumblatt, and MP Mohammed Raad, and the majority of the members of their respective blocs.

In numbers and figures as well, the parliament-cum-box of wonders, many of the 128 MPs had inherited their posts from their parents, grandparents, spouses, or even uncles or siblings.

One MP has died and four have “immigrated” since their election, or even perhaps long before that. Six MPs have repeatedly declared they would not be standing for re-election. Five have been abandoned by their parties, which named other candidates in any elections in the future. Forty MPs are practically retired from legislation and service. Around 78 MPs are over the age of 60, including the prime minister and the speaker, while more than half of the rest are nearly 60 – albeit their hair dyes attempt to convey otherwise.

In the parliamentary circus in Lebanon, the head of the largest bloc, Saad Hariri, visits the country on special occasions, though he retains the ability – all the way from his headquarters in Saudi Arabia – to cancel elections, impose extensions, and disrupt the constitution. The parliament is also home to MP Okab Sakr of the “milk, diapers, and blanket” fame, who fled to Istanbul, then Paris, and is now in Brussels.

Meanwhile, an almost unknown MP from Jezzine representing the Change and Reform bloc serves in this parliament, we are told, named Issam Sawaya. A Google search of his name returns one news story, which reports that General Michel Aoun had asked MP Sawaya, “Who lives permanently in the United States” to return to Lebanon in the event a voting session was going to be held for the so-called Orthodox-Maronite draft electoral law. While Sawaya has made little more than a speech or appearance throughout his tenure, Mukhtara-aligned MP Nehmeh Tohme, who basically lives on his private jet, is keen on issuing political statements signed with his name to prove that he exists.

Resigned but…

The ‘wonders’ of the Lebanese parliament do not stop here.

Six MPs who previously stated they will not stand in the next election, all for different reasons, magically agreed to extend their terms. These include Lebanese Forces MP Joseph Maalouf, and Future Movement MPs like Muin al-Merehbi, Deputy Speaker Farid Makari, and Jean Ogassapian.

Regardless of how much these MPs are or are not reconciled with themselves, their votes in favor of extending their terms is understandable, if placed in the context of their parties’ decisions.

However, what is odd, for example, is for an independent MP like Mohammed Safadi to declare that he would not be running in the elections, and yet, vote to extend his term by an additional two years and seven months. Similarly, MP Suleiman Franjieh voted to extend his term for the same amount of time before ultimately handing over his post to his son, Tony.

And despite the opposition of the Change and Reform bloc to the extension, the bloc’s MPs were relieved when it was approved, with the exception of two who can be described as “MPs-against-their-will,” namely, Edgar Maalouf and Salim Salhab, who previously declared they would not be standing for reelection but whose terms were extended without their approval anyway.

On the flip side, there were five MPs whose terms were extended against the will of their parties, which had nominated others in their stead in any future election, such as Lebanese Forces MP Eli Kayrouz in Bsharri, Lebanese Forces MPs Tony Bou Khater and Shant Chinchinian from Zahle, Free Patriotic Movement MP in Keserwan Nematallah Abi Nasr, and Future Movement MP in Akkar Khaled Daher.

Ineptitude and dozens of complaints

Around 36 MPs whose terms were extended have no record to speak of in legislation that would justify the extension, or indeed a record in serving their constituencies in a way that would offset their failures in legislation. Nor have they made any significant political appearances. Such MPs include Sebu Kalbakian, Badr Wannous, Qassim Abdul-Aziz, and Elie Aoun.

Parliamentary “unemployment,” meanwhile, is something the voters who voted for MP Samer Saadeh and MP Robert Ghanem know all too well. The latter focused all his efforts on reaching the Baabda Palace above all other concerns. The same goes for MP Ziad al-Qadiri, whose erstwhile enthusiasm and diligence have all but disappeared, and MP Serge Torsarkissian and MP Dory Chamoun.

Yet the biggest shock perhaps came when MP Nayla Tueni ended her isolation and came out to vote on extending her term. The same goes for MP Amin Wahbi, who left his village and did little to serve it at all levels, though he remembered it recently for a project to widen the road – which happens to pass in front of his house.

By the same token, MPs Ali Osseiran and Anwar al-Khalil have been absent as well, while complaints continue to be lodged against Ayoub Humaid from his home region.

MP Abdul-Majid Saleh offered his services only to a handful of people, MP Hani Kobeissi acts like an MP for Nabatiyeh rather than for Beirut’s second district, and it is enough to quickly examine the state of the towns the MPs from the Gemayel family are supposed to represent to get an idea about their own track records.

MPs in our parliament have thus decided to re-elect themselves despite their failure in fulfilling the basic duties entrusted to them in their towns and villages, districts, and country. Apart from their dismal legislative record, their failure to pass the budget, and their inability to do meaningful work in parliamentary committees, the majority of Lebanese MPs are unable to rally enough people to fill a small street or inspire more than merely a handful of people.

These MPs have exhausted their energies throughout the years, and must retire and give way to others.

The performance of Tashnaq and Hezbollah MPs are very similar to the rest, given their party-based system that prevents MPs from offering services through their own offices, and forces them to serve their constituencies via their respective party offices. There are MPs from Hezbollah who are content with the partisan system for offering services, and who have not engaged with their constituencies, at least in their home regions. Many have complained about the near-total absence of MP Kamel al-Rifai and Nawar al-Saheli, for instance and said they wished MP Hussein Moussawi would grant if only one favor in return for every 10 speeches that he makes.


This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Looking at the picture - there are a lot of grey heads amongst them - are we sure it is not the geriatrics club at the local nursing home ? A lot of these men are not fit for the positions they hold. Today is a very technically complicated world & they are not up to it they have not got a clue.
Retirement is essential, everyone becomes out of step & thereby obsolete & loose their faculties sooner or later. They must move on & though it is bothersome - old people get set in their ways & they won't move on, they hang on for dear life, they need to be firmly pushed for the good of everyone including themselves.
Where are all the young men & women to take over the wheel ?

Its nice to see someone who know where its at !

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