Lebanese parliamentary extension marked by mass Beirut protests
Hundreds of citizens and civil society activists demonstrated in Beirut Thursday afternoon in rejection of the extension of parliament's term, as security forces prevented them several times from crossing the barriers into Nejmeh Square which houses parliament's building.
Protesters carried banners highlighting the living conditions that the lawmakers have failed to address, such as the new rent law, and slogans against the extension of parliament's mandate, which will go into effect at midnight.
“The people want the fall of the regime” and “MPs, leave now!” were among the slogans chanted by demonstrators.
Protesters also carried Lebanese flags as patriotic and revolutionary songs echoed across the Riad al-Solh square.
“128 thieves have usurped power and those claiming to be against extension must resign so that we can remove their pictures from the list,” activist Imad Bazzi told al-Jadeed television.
“The Constitutional Council proved that it is a copy of the politicians and we only have the street and the people,” Bazzi added, noting that “the street will challenge the extension should the Constitutional Council fail to approve the filed challenges.”
Meanwhile, activist Khodor Salameh told MTV that “none of the political parties represented in parliament is taking place in the demo.”
The MPs “who did not vote (in favor of extension) are partners in crime because they will be receiving their salaries for another 17 months,” Salameh added.
Riot police several times tried to push protesters away from Nejmeh Square as demonstrators hurled plastic water bottles on them amid appeals from the organizers to keep the protest peaceful.
Protesters later announced that they will stay around parliament throughout the night until the Constitutional Council declares its stance on the challenge filed against extension on Friday.
"I support the demands of the civil movement but they must express their opinions peacefully and democratically and security forces must deal with protesters in a wise and calm manner," President Michel Suleiman, meanwhile, said on Twitter.
Ninety-seven out of 128 MPs had voted in favor of extending parliament's term, which ends at midnight, as three judges of the 10-member Constitutional Council have failed to attend four sessions so far, depriving the council of the needed quorum to rule on challenges.