With the Lebanese parliament's term coming to its end this November, some are campaigning against a possible second extension of the current members’ mandate — with tomatoes.
The current parliament extended its four-year stay for the first time in May 2013. And like a year before, various parties are supporting the move this time around under the pretext of security conditions.
Last year, activists threw tomatoes at legislators’ vehicles. This year, 128 tomatoes were sent to the 128 representatives of the people, with a sticker reading “No to extension.”
People are also taking to the streets and speaking out online in both Arabic and English under the slogan #NoToExtension or #لا_للتمديد. Many artists and public figures have joined the campaign.
Film director and producer Nasser Fakih, for instance, published a wake-up call for his more than 25,000 followers on Twitter:
من نحنا و صغار بهددونا بالفراغ … ليش في دولة ليكون في فراغ ؟؟ صار وقت تكبّوا الأرجيلة على جنب و تسمعوهن صوتكن عالعالي : #لا_للتمديد
— Nasser Fakih (@fakihn) August 19, 2014
They've been threatening us with void since were kids. But mustn't there be a state first for there to be a state of political and leadership void? It's time you put aside your sisha and make them hear your voice loudly: #NoToExtension
The end of the parliamentary term comes amidst a period of turmoil in Lebanon. The country has lacked a president since May 25 after parliament failed to elect a new head of state and top officials could not reach political consensus. A general strike by syndicates demanding to approve a new enhanced wage scale for civil servants has threatened to paralyze the entire country. Lebanon has experience instability on both Syrian and Israeli borders after soldiers were kidnapped by members of Islamic militant organization ISIS.
Twitter user Mariam called for sanctions against the current members of parliament:
#لا_للتمديد لنفس النواب الي ما عم يقدرو يأمنولي ابسط حقوقي من علم و حكمة و كهربا و مي بس لعيش كمواطن
— #لا_للتمديد مريم ج. (@coolmaster18) August 25, 2014
#NoToExtension for those same deputies who are unable to meet my merest rights such as education, access to health, electricity and water, just so that I can live like a citizen.
Kamal Abboud refused to vote for people who never acted as such:
#لا_للتمديد لازم قبل ماتعمل نائب تتعلم شو يعني نائب عن شعب الي بعمركم ماشتغلتو شي يفيد هالشعب
— #لا_للتمديد Kamal (@kimoabboud) August 18, 2014
#NoToExtension, before you become a deputy you should learn what it means to be a deputy for people you never did anything useful for
Yielding to pressure, the council of ministers signed a decree calling for the electoral committees to convene and sent it to legislators for approval. But this move was far from convincing, as TV reporter Christine Habib pointed out to her more than 30,500 followers:
مجلس الوزراء يوقع مرسوم دعوة الهيئات الناخبة ويرمي الكرة في ملعب مجلس النواب: وبعدُن عم يستلمونا! #لا_للتمديد
— Christine Habib (@Christine_Habib) August 19, 2014
Council of ministers signs the decree convening the electoral committees and throws the ball in the camps of the parliament: And they are still making fools of us. #NoToExtension
Jamil Warrak was not so optimistic about preventing an extension:
— Jamil Warrak (@jamilwarrak) August 24, 2014
I have a feeling that the campaign #NoToExtension will be a fundamental motif that might lead to #extension
Mohammad Abdallah shared the same feelings:
#لا_للتمديد حملة كل لبناني وانشالله ما نضطر نمدد ها لحملة
— Mohammad Abdallah (@ma123450809932) August 25, 2014
#NoToExtension is the campaign of all Lebanese and I hope we won't have to extend that campaign
Not all Lebanese were strictly against extending parliament's term. Hicham Rustom is an example:
— Hicham Rustom (@HichamRustom) August 23, 2014
You think if they held elections, MPs will change??!! #YesToExtension #Extension_is_more_Honorable
“While the March 14 political alliance namely the parliamentarian block headed by Saad Hariri block seem to back the extension, the March 8 coalition has many objections, demonstrated by Free Patriotic Movement political party member and Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil‘s tweet:
نعيش تمديداً مرشحاً لتمديد تمدد معه حالة حرمان المواطن حقه في إختيار نوابه #لا_للتمديد
— Gebran Bassil (@Gebran_Bassil) August 20, 2014
We are living an extension and with it the deprivation of the citizen's right to chose his or her deputies. #NoToExtension
To which Twitter user Hadi replied:
@Gebran_Bassil عنجد عم تشارك المواطن ولا كمان عم تلعبه انتخابات؟؟؟ بعتذر منك بس بطلنا نصدقكم
— hadiلا_للتمديد# (@hadicom1975) August 20, 2014
Are you really with citizens or are you preparing for elections? Sorry but we stopped believing you
Another protest march is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. facing the Parliament, with a Facebook page mobilizing people for the cause .
Despite the pushback against a possible extension, nothing is sure yet. Will parliament extend its term or not?