BEIRUT — President Michael Aoun signed a decree on Thursday to hold an extraordinary Parliament session from Jan. 10 to March 21, while the regular Parliament session was not scheduled to resume until the spring.
Here’s what we know:
• Article 32 of the Lebanese Constitution requires Parliament to meet in two regular sessions to investigate and vote on the budget before taking up any other matter. Article 33 of the Lebanese Constitution grants the President, in consultation with the Prime Minister, the authority to call a special session of Parliament and charge it with a specified agenda.
• Aoun’s announcement of the signing of this decree and the dates of the session was made without any mention of the planned agenda.
• However, on Wednesday, Prime Minister Najib Mikati had confirmed at the end of a meeting with Aoun that they had reached an agreement to open this session and to convene a cabinet meeting “as soon as the draft budget 2022 is received, within the next two days.”
• The cabinet has not convened since Oct. 12 owing to internal differences among its members about how the Beirut port blast investigation should proceed. Shiite ministers have vowed to boycott meetings until Judge Tarek Bitar's participation in the investigation is reduced.
• While a Parliament session is needed to pass the budget, a required precursor to a deal with the International Monetary Fund, it is seen by some as an obstacle to the investigation into the port explosion. The resumption of parliamentary meetings confers constitutional immunity to MPs, two of whom, Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zeaïter, both members of the Amal movement of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, are being prosecuted in this case. Amal, along with its ally Hezbollah, have accused Bitar of "politicizing" the investigation and have attempted to have him sidelined.