Lebanese press round-up: April 18, 2012

Press round-up for Wednesday, April 18th from the morning edition of Lebanon’s An-Nahar, Al-Akhbar, As-Safir, and Ad-Diyar newspapers.

Note: There is no press round-up on Sundays

  • Opening Titles

The parliamentary showdown kicks off early electoral bazaar.

March 8 faces the opposition with numerical dumping.

Mikati exposes his cabinet’s achievements before the MPs’ interventions.

Lebanon officially rejects allowing international observers to use the Qleiat airfield.

  • Local News

Twenty MPs took the floor on the first day of the parliamentary session earmarked for questioning the cabinet. Fifty-three MPs are still expected to take the floor on the second and third day, which are also to witness the cabinet’s response to the interventions.

The paradox – as highlighted by key parliamentary sources from the opposition and acknowledged by other majority sources – lies in the fact that PM Najib Mikati was the only one who truly took up the cabinet’s defense.

Opposition MPs virulently attacked the cabinet on the issues of security, the economy and accusations of scandals, albeit without denying the cabinet or any minister confidence.

The interventions of pro-government MPs predominantly consisted of counterattacks on former cabinets and of blaming the deficiency of the current cabinet on a “heavy heritage,” knowing that most pro-government blocs had taken part in those cabinets.

The political division was immediately represented in the virulent verbal dispute between MPs Marwan Hamadeh and MP Emile Rahmeh regarding the telecommunication station in Barouk. The dispute soon blew out of proportions as MP Akram Chehayyeb intervened in it.

Hamadeh’s intervention was among the harshest addresses, as he warned against “a blatant collapse of power as was the case in 2005.” MP Hamadeh said that “while the bullets missed [Lebanese Forces leader] Samir Geagea, they portend of imminent danger and wretched days.”

Deputy Speaker Farid Makari virulently attacked “the expired cabinet reeking of corruption and [suspicious] deals.” Deputy Speaker Makari told PM Mikati: “Resign before you lose all credit.”

MP Mohammad Qabbani called for putting Energy Minister Gebran Bassil to trial “on charges of violating the law and squandering public funds.”

MPs Emile Rahmeh and Simon Abi Ramia held [previous] cabinets responsible for the consequences of the “heavy heritage of debts and monopoly and buying of power.”

On another level, An-Nahar has learned that Lebanon invoked logistical reasons to officially turn down an international request to allow the use of the Qleiat airfield by international observers whom the Security Council decided to send to Syria.

  • Opening Titles

Nasrallah to Assange: We have called parties of the Syrian opposition.

  • Local News

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been under house arrest for 500 days, interviewed Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on the first episode of his series “The World Tomorrow” on Russia Today News.

Sayyed Nasrallah asserted: “Our priority is still to liberate our land and protect Lebanon from Israeli danger, because we believe that Lebanon is still under threat.”

Sayyed Nasrallah revealed for the first time that contacts were established with the Syrian opposition “in order to urge it to initiate dialogue with the regime; however, it rejected dialogue because its aim is to bring down the regime.”

During the interview with Assange, which was performed via a simultaneous interpreter, Sayyed Nasrallah said that “the state of Israel is illegal,” adding that “it was founded based on occupying and usurping other people’s land and committing massacres.”

Sayyed Nasrallah denied that some Hezbollah members are engrossed in corruption and running mafia-like organizations and drug-dealing companies all around the world, saying: “This is one of the greatest taboos we are facing as per our religion, our Sharia and our ethics.”

  • Opening Titles

Nasrallah: The Syrian opposition is rejecting dialogue.

“Parliamentary chatter” dissociated from the people’s concerns!

  • Local News

Those who heard March 14 MPs virulently attacking the cabinet during the parliamentary debate session assumed that the natural result would be a vote of no confidence in the cabinet or some ministers in it. However, this was not the case.

Change and Reform bloc MPs, who had always loudly criticized PM Najib Mikati, noticeably took up his defense yesterday.

Demand-related concerns are still growing against a backdrop of the verbal disputes that occurred in parliament, as PM Mikati also sought to contain the protests against rising gasoline prices.

PM Mikati asked a delegation of the Land Transportation Federations and Unions to adjourn the strike set to be held tomorrow and requested a deadline until next Wednesday, i.e. the day on which the Council of Ministers is set to convene.

Bassam Tleis told As-Safir that PM Mikati agreed in principle, during the two-hour session, on setting the ceiling of 20 liters of gasoline at 30,000 LL “for public transportation drivers only,” and not for all of the Lebanese people. 

The Executive Committee of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers declared yesterday a general strike in all public and private institutions and establishments on Thursday May 3.

The emergency meeting held yesterday between Economy and Trade Minister Nicolas Nahhas and the Union of Bakeries syndicates under the aegis of Kazem Ibrahim did not manage to adjourn the strike to be initiated by bakeries as of 6 p.m. tomorrow.

  • Opening Titles

A long televised day on Nejmeh Square and popular concerns are the most notable absence.

  • Local News

Within the framework of his official visit in Australia, President Michel Sleiman visited Sydney where he met with the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia Quentin Bryce. President Sleiman also met with a delegation of Lebanese clerics in Australia.

During these meetings, President Sleiman stressed that there shall be no genuine stability and peace in the Middle East without social justice on the domestic level. The president asserted that Lebanon will remain true to its message, noting Australia’s enduring support for Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence.

The General Confederation of Lebanese Workers held a meeting during which it declared a one-day strike on May 3 to protest against the deteriorating economic situation. The strike is to be preceded by a union conference to be held on May 1 as a shout of warning.

Ministerial sources told Ad-Diyar that they are pleased with the course of the debate [held yesterday in parliament], as ministers adhered to PM Najib Mikati’s instructions not to respond to provocations and be lured into squabbles.

Sources following up on the electoral law issue said that the law is being discussed on the highest of levels, adding that many propositions were put forth in order for MP Walid Jumblatt to accept proportionality in an attempt to address his concerns.

However, sources asserted, MP Jumblatt still has reservations on [the principle of] proportionality, as he is still set against it and is threatening to adopt escalatory measures if key leaders display an inclination to adopt proportionality.

The sources revealed that MP Jumblatt abstained for the first time from wishing the Maronite patriarch a happy Easter. He even abstained from sending his son Taymour or any Druze delegation to Bkirki to convey his holiday wishes, as had become the fashion.