Rarely does a day pass without one Lebanese political faction blaming another for the 29-month-long failure to elect a new President of the Republic. One day Hezbollah points the finger at its Future Movement rival; the next day Future retorts that Hezbollah is at fault; another day Saudi Arabia, Iran or even Maronite “suicide specialists” might be the culprit. So familiar have these mutual recriminations of foul play and obstruction become that it can be easy to lose sight of one plain fact: the president is constitutionally elected by parliament, and for more than two years a large number of MPs simply have not been attending parliament’s presidential election sessions.
Today’s session – the 45th to be held since the conclusion of President Michel Suleiman’s term – was no exception, with parliament failing once again to so much as form a quorum. Who are these MPs, then; dozens of whom have skipped all but one of the forty-five sessions held thus far (while continuing, needless to say, to enjoy their taxpayer-funded salaries of at least $8,500 per month)? What political parties do they represent?
Using previously-unpublished data acquired from parliament’s records for the 44 sessions held between 23 April, 2014 and 7 September, 2016, in the below graphics NOW sets out in full detail exactly who has and has not been showing up to work. The data confirm some things already generally known – e.g., that MPs from the Hezbollah-led Loyalty to the Resistance and Free Patriotic Movement-led Change & Reform blocs have been boycotting parliament since its second electoral session, held on 30 April, 2014 – but they also reveal the patchy attendance records of other MPs of different political allegiances.
Among the key findings are that 43 MPs (34% of the total) attended no more than 1 of the 44 sessions. 57 MPs (45%) attended fewer than 10, while 67 MPs (52%) attended fewer than half. Only 3 MPs (Future’s Ammar Houri, The Democratic Gathering’s Antoine Saad, and Liberation & Development’s Nabih Berri) attended all 44. The three blocs with the highest average attendance rates were Al-Jamaa al-Islamiyah, the Lebanese Forces and the Amal Movement-led Liberation & Development.
(Source: Parliamentary data obtained by NOW for the period of 23 April, 2014 to 7 September, 2016)
Amin Nasr contributed reporting.