A boycott by March 14 MPs and lawmakers from MP Walid Jumblat’s National Struggle Front of a crucial parliamentary session on Monday is likely to lead to an open-ended crisis on extra-budgetary spending made in the past six years.
Speaker Nabih Berri’s office announced the adjournment of the session to March 15 over lack of quorum.
According to MTV, only 56 lawmakers attended. But the National News Agency said 59 MPs were present.
Before the decision to adjourn the session, Berri held talks with Premier Najib Miqati, FPM leader Michel Aoun, Marada chief Suleiman Franjieh and Hizbullah lawmaker Mohammed Raad.
Commenting on the adjournment, Miqati said: “This is democracy in Lebanon.”
Berri had said in remarks published in several dailies he would not postpone the session although he was informed by both sides on Sunday night that they would boycott it.
“I will head to parliament to preside (the session) in accordance with its agenda,” Berri said.
“I have proposed an initiative and improved its conditions of success,” he said, adding that it was up to all sides to cooperate with him to resolve the dispute between the March 8 majority and the opposition March 14 alliance.
March 14 is conditioning its approval of a $5.9 billion spending bill to a comprehensive settlement that would include the legalization of the $11 billion spent by the governments of ex-PMs Fouad Saniora and Saad Hariri between 2006 and 2009 and of $5 billion spent by Hariri’s national unity cabinet in 2010.
Lebanon has been without a state budget since 2005.
The March 8 forces and mainly Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc have accused March 14 parties of stealing public money and demanded records of $11 billion in extra-budgetary.
The speaker stressed that the session’s agenda includes several draft-laws that concern the Lebanese. If the $5.9 billion spending bill of Miqati’s cabinet is put up for discussion and is not approved by the lawmakers, it “would not be the end of the world.”
Berri has vowed to push for the legalization of the $11 billion spending as soon as the March 14 forces and the parliament in general approve the $5.9 billion bill. He has also proposed the formation of a joint ministerial-parliamentary committee to resolve the dispute.
However, the March 14 MPs have conditioned their participation in the session to a comprehensive legalization of the spending made by consecutive governments since 2006 through a draft-law proposed by them.
As for Jumblat, he told As Safir newspaper that a decision by his bloc to boycott the session lies in its insistence to find a political solution to the dispute.
“This doesn’t mean that we are no longer part of the ruling majority,” he said about the March 8 forces.
But Energy Minister Jebran Bassil, who is a member of the Change and Reform bloc, accused Jumblat of supporting the March 14 alliance in its demand.
March 8 sources also said that the majority is being “irrational” in linking the $5.9 and $11 billion spending.
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