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Clashing Parliamentarians

A rowdy verbal clash between two MPs on Monday’s session showcases the severe failures of Lebanon’s government.

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri (R) opens the 4th session to elect a new President, flanked by his deputy Elias Bou Saab, in Beirut on October 24, 2022. Photo: Joseph Eid, AFP

On Tuesday, lawmakers clashed verbally at a Joint Parliamentary Committee meeting. After a heated argument between MPs Ghazi Zeaiter of the Amal Movement and Melhem Khalaf of the Change bloc, shouts, slurs, and banging on tables were heard, according to Al-Jadeed television.

Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel refused to provide details to reporters who heard loud noises coming from inside, saying the session was recorded and calling for the recording to be released.

Gemayel said he puts the matter in Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s hands, asking him to take a stance to correct what happened.

Why this matters, it is evident that in Lebanon, parliamentary sessions are not conducted in a manner consistent with a decent political system. In this instance, what stands out is the type of language used as Khalil told Gemayel that “you are a criminal and the son of a criminal,” while his colleague MP Ghazi Zeaiter replied to change lawmaker Melhem Khalaf that “you are out of line” with “what a bunch, not worth my shoe.”

It is yet another indication that the country is run by amateurs and not by professional politicians, as Khalil apologized to Gemayel after the news of what happened reached parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri.

Amidst the daylight savings debacle that has distracted the people for a couple of days, the economic crisis is still raging and shows no signs of ending. What this altercation adds is the possibility of delaying municipal elections.

In spite of the fact that no type of election has been able to bring real change so far, postponing municipal elections would still have a detrimental effect on a population that is already struggling.

Furthermore, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea accused change MPs Halime Kaakour and Ibrahim Mneimneh of not wanting to coordinate with the opposition due to their perception of the Lebanese Forces as part of the sectarian system that has brought the country to this point.

“These MPs are ideological,” Geagea was reported to have said according to Naharnet. “But they are ideological in the other direction, not against Hezbollah but against something that doesn’t exist anymore.” 

Mneimneh responded saying that “confronting Hezbollah does not exclusively have to pass through Maarab.”

“You and all the other establishment’s parties are a cover for Hezbollah and another face for it,” Mneimneh said.

“We did not enter the political work to revive previous polarization and divisions, or participate in shady deals and quotas,” the Change MP added.

In conclusion, in light of the lack of cohesion among different factions of parliament, it is clear that change will not occur, reforms are a distant possibility, and the country will remain as it is for the foreseeable future since its politicians are more concerned with attacking each other than doing actual work.

Dana Hourany is a multimedia journalist with @NOW_leb. She is on Instagram @danahourany and Twitter @danahourany.