Two Lebanese lawmakers entered the second week of their parliamentary sit-in on Friday, maintaining their vow to remain inside Parliament's chambers until fellow MPs elect a new president.
MPs Najat Saliba and Melhem Khalaf, both independents, began their protest on Jan. 19, after colleagues met and failed to agree on a new president for the 11th time.
Lebanon has been without a head of state since Michel Aoun's mandate expired last year. A caretaker cabinet continues to oversee government responsibilities as Lebanon's economic collapse stretches into its third year and the national currency reaches record lows against the US dollar.
"We are staying here. We won't be leaving [before a president is elected]," Saliba told AFP from Parliament on Friday.
"The state has completely collapsed ... There is no government, no financial system, and the judiciary is at war with itself," she said, adding that the pair hope their sit-in would empower Parliament to elect a new president.
Her comments came days after the country's notoriously politicized justice system appeared to descend into an internecine dispute over the devastating 2020 Beirut port blast after the lead investigator resumed work this week following a 13-month hiatus.
The judicial battle adds to a crushing economic crisis that has plunged much of Lebanon's population into poverty and is described by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history.
Khalaf and Saliba, along with a number of other reform candidates, were elected last year on the back of 2019 protests against Lebanon's factional elite who have dominated the political scene since the 1975-1990 civil war.
While they hope their protest will break months of political paralysis, longtime parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri has yet to call for a new legislative session since their sit-in began.
A source close to Berri told AFP that Parliament has not yet met because no breakthrough to the deadlock appears likely.
"Let their own bloc decide on a name first; they are themselves divided," the source said, criticizing the sit-in.
Lawmakers supporting and opposing the powerful, Iran-backed Hezbollah are divided on Lebanon's next president — but neither side has a clear majority.
Decision-making in Lebanese politics can take months of negotiations between foreign-backed sectarian leaders. Aoun's 2016 election was achieved after a presidential vacancy of more than two years.
The international community has urged leaders to end the months of political paralysis and mitigate the financial meltdown.
MPs Najat Saliba and Melhem Khalaf, both independents, began their protest on Jan. 19, after colleagues met and failed to agree on a new president for the 11th...