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Why Activists Sent 128 Tomatoes to Every Single Member of Lebanon's Parliament

A slogan used for a protest on August 19 "No to the extension of trash - MP's being here likened to garbage)

A slogan used for a protest on Aug. 19: “No to the extension of trash,” likening members of parliament to garbage. Posted among others on the “Take Back Parliament” Facebook page.

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.

The famous tomatoes

The tomatoes by the Civil Movement for Accountability

Film director and producer Nasser Fakih, for instance, published a wake-up call for his more than 25,000 followers on Twitter:

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: 

#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:

#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:

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:

I have a feeling that the campaign #NoToExtension will be a fundamental motif that might lead to #extension

Mohammad Abdallah shared the same feelings:

#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:

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: 

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:

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 .

The public call to demonstrate against the extension of a new term for the Lebanese Parliament. We can read: The civil Movement for Accountability invites you for a march on Thursday August 28 at 6pm, starting from Ministry of Interior in Sanaye' area till Ryad al Solh square to reject the extension of the Parliament. #NotoExtension

A public call to demonstrate against the extension the Lebanese Parliament's term shared by many organizations opposed to the extension . It reads: “The civil Movement for Accountability invites you for a march on Thursday, Aug. 28 at 6 p.m., starting from the Ministry of Interior in Sanaye till Ryad al Solh square to reject the extension of the Parliament. #NotoExtension”

Despite the pushback against a possible extension, nothing is sure yet. Will parliament extend its term or not?

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