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Lebanon protesters prevent secret parliamentary session being held

Demonstrators gather to stage a protest against the government's tax policy in Beirut, Lebanon on 23 October, 2019 [Mahmut Geldi/Anadolu Agency]
Demonstrators gather to stage a protest against the government's tax policy in Beirut, Lebanon on 23 October, 2019 [Mahmut Geldi/Anadolu Agency]

Protesters in Lebanon have forced a secret parliamentary session which was boycotted by much of the parliament to once again be postponed, deepening the political crisis in the country and the continued corruption.

The session, which was meant to be held at 1pm today, was stopped by protesters gathering in the area of the Lebanese parliament in the Nejmah Square of central Beirut. The legislative session was to discuss draft laws such as the amnesty law, which lawyers and activists have said would allow room for the abuse of power and the acquittal of the authorities from crimes relating to corruption while encouraging the negligence and wasting of public funds.

The protesters also attempted to block the convoys of MPs on their way to the session by obstructing roads, with one convoy running civilians over and one member of the security forces opening fire to disperse the crowds. The pressure added to the fact that several political parties previously stated their boycott of the parliamentary session.

Lebanese parliamentarian Adnan Daher announced that "The session has been postponed to a date to be determined later," shortly prior to noon. Daher said this was a result of "exceptional conditions, in particular security conditions."

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The protesters saw the postponement of the session and the prevention of the discussion of the amnesty law as a success for the Lebanese people, with one protester, Mohamed Ataya, telling the UK-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that "This is a new achievement for the revolution," and that no session is to be held "as long as the people control the street."

The reason for many of the parties and MPs having boycotted the planned session was that it was to be convened only under the caretaker government, which meant that the legislative session should have been limited to matters of necessity rather than draft laws such as the amnesty law which would risk the increase of corruption.

The cancelling and postponement of the session comes after weeks of protests in Lebanon against the ruling government and elite, caused by long-standing economic crises, government corruption and rampant mismanagement. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned at the end of October due to the widespread protests, a move that resulted in the breakdown of the government coalition, and since then the country under President Michel Aoun has been seeking a new prime minister and unified cabinet and coalition. Former Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi was due to take up the position before he withdrew this week and recommended Hariri for the post.

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