Last Update 14:40
Wednesday, 13 November 2019

In Photos: Protests grip Lebanon demanding government resigns

Reuters , Friday 18 Oct 2019
Lebanon
Lebanese demonstrators wave the national flag during a protest against dire economic conditions in downtown Beirut on October 18, 2019 AFP
Share/Bookmark
Views: 1050
Share/Bookmark
Views: 1050

Thousands of protesters blocked roads and burned tyres across Lebanon for a second day on Friday, demanding the demise of a political elite they say looted the economy to the point of breakdown.

The nationwide protests, Lebanon's biggest in years, brought ordinary people from all sects and walks of life to the streets. They carried banners and chanted slogans calling on the government to resign.

"We came to the streets because we can no longer bear this situation. This regime is totally corrupt," said Fadi Issa, 51, who marching with his son. "They are all thieves, they come to the government to fill their pockets, not to serve the country."

"We don't want just a resignation. We want them (leaders) be held accountable. They should return all the money they stole. We want change," he added.

The demonstations came as economists, investors and rating agencies warned that indebted Lebanon's economy and graft-entrenched financial system is closer to the brink than any time since the war-torn 1980s.

Foreign allies have pressured Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to enact reforms long promised but never delivered because of vested interests, beginning with an overhaul with some state assets.

1
Lebanese demonstrators, wearing a mask of the Spanish TV show "La Casa de Papel", attend a protest against dire economic conditions in downtown Beirut on October 18, 2019 AFP

2
Lebanese demonstrators chant slogans during a protest against dire economic conditions in downtown Beirut on October 18, 2019 AFP

"Downfall Of The Regime"

A video circulated on social media showed protesters in the Chouf mountains burning a large poster of President Michel Aoun, yelling in unison "come on get out and leave". Across the country, protesters chanted against the country's top leaders including Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

Demonstrators had gathered outside the government headquarters in central Beirut on Thursday evening, forcing the cabinet to backtrack on plans to impose a new fee on WhatsApp voice calls. Police fired tear gas as they clashed with some demonstrators overnight.

People blocked roads in the north, the south and the capital on Friday. Schools and businesses were closed. "The people want the downfall of the regime," protesters near the government's Serail headquarters chanted.

The unrest prompted Hariri to cancel a cabinet meeting due on Friday to discuss the 2020 draft budget. He is set to make a speech instead.

Fires in the street of central Beirut were smouldering on Friday. Pavements were scattered with the glass of several smashed shop-fronts and billboards had been torn down.

Fatima, a dentist, said: "We are protesting against the politicians to force them to give back the money they stole and put it back at the service of the people. If it wasn't for their corruption there would be no economic crisis."

In a country fractured along sectarian lines, the unusually wide geographic reach of these protests highlights the deepening anger of the Lebanese. The government, which includes nearly all of Lebanon's main parties, has long failed to implement reforms that are vital to resolve the crisis.

"We've lived for 30 years with their lies. They're sitting in their castles at the expense of the people," said Ali Kassem, a protester in the suburb of Ouzai.

3
Demonstrators sleep on the ground as they block a street during a protest targeting the government over an economic crisis in the port city of Sidon, Lebanon October 18, 2019. REUTERS

4
Lebanese demonstrators wave the national flag during a protest against dire economic conditions in Beirut's Salim Slem neighberhood on October 18, 2019 AFP

Slowing Capital Flows

Christian politician Samir Geagea and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, whose parties both have some ministers in the coalition cabinet, have called on the government to resign.

Seeking ways to boost revenues, a government minister on Thursday announced plans to raise a new fee of 20 cents per day for calls via voice over internet protocol (VoIP), used by applications including Facebook-owned WhatsApp.

But as the protests spread, Telecoms Minister Mohamed Choucair revoked the proposed levy.

Shattered by war between 1975 and 1990, Lebanon has one of the world's highest debt burdens as a share of its economy. Economic growth has been hit by regional conflict and instability. Unemployment among those aged under 35 runs at 37%.

The kind of steps needed to fix the national finances have long proven elusive. Sectarian politicians, many of them civil war militia leaders, have long used state resources for their own political benefit and are reluctant to cede prerogatives.

The crisis has been compounded by a slowdown in capital flows to Lebanon, which has long depended on remittances from its diaspora to meet financing needs, including the state's deficit.

The strains have emerged recently in the real economy where importers have been unable to secure dollars at the pegged exchange rate.

5
A bystander makes her way through burning tires blocking off a main road leading from southern Lebanon to Beirut, during a protest targeting the government over an economic crisis, at Barja area, Lebanon, October 18, 2019. REUTERS

Short link:

 

Email
 
Name
 
Comment's
Title
 
Comment
Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.
Latest

© 2010 Ahram Online.