BEIRUT: The scene is familiar at Nijmeh Square Wednesday morning. Roads leading to the area are blocked by the Army and convoys of MPs are heading to Parliament.
However, the event this time is not a Parliament session to elect a president that will fail to convene due to a lack of quorum similar to the previous 12 ones.
The first legislative session in over four months will finally take place after boycotting MPs decided to attend. Cars with tinted windows carrying lawmakers began to arrive in Parliament way before 11 a.m., the time assigned for the session.
MPs who rarely attend sessions such as Chouf MP Dory Chamoun showed up as well.
The March 14 coalition and MPs from the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc have refused to attend legislative sessions after the presidency became vacant in May 25, except to vote on urgent draft laws.
They decided to take part in Wednesday’s session, which has a long-awaited a salary raise for the public sector among other urgent bills on its agenda.
MPs entered Parliament’s building as the noise from a nearby protest held by teachers at private schools against being excluded from the pay hike could be clearly heard.
Prior to the session, Speaker Nabih Berri chaired a meeting with Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Defense Minister Samir Moqbel and Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan who were later joined by MP Ibrahim Kanaan.
“The salary raise will not be endorsed today,” MP Ali Bazzi, from Berri’s bloc, told reporters in what appeared to be a joke.
Lawmakers and ministers from rival blocs gathered in Parliament’s hall shortly before the start of the session, a scene which has become unfamiliar recently.
Some rival officials greeted each other, exchanging hugs and kisses.
Hezbollah MP Nawwaf Musawi and Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk had a private conversation.
“You are exchanging chats, looks like you miss each other,” Berri addressed MPs jokingly before announcing the start of the meeting.
The session kicked off with MPs observing a minute of silence for the death of Former MPs Michel Sassine, Michel Helou and Ahmad Hbous.
Although the first in months, the legislative session was shorter than expected and Bazzi’s remarks turned out not to be a joke. Berri sent the wage hike bill back to Joint Committees for further study, citing the opposition of several sectors to the raise.
Lawmakers then passed eight other draft laws, including one allowing the government to pay salaries to public sector employees for the remaining months of the year. The speaker then adjourned the session.
The session, which lasted for less than 30 minutes, was apparently good news for ordinary Lebanese, many of whom were stuck in traffic resulting from the closure of roads surrounding Parliament, security measures taken every time there is a session.
But many MPs were not interested in leaving Nijmeh Square that soon. Some, including Machnouk, chose to enjoy the sunny day and sip coffee at a nearby café.
MPs need not worry about the sufferings of another imminent session, with a meeting of Parliament’s Secretariat which convened later in the day failing to schedule a new session.