Thousands of Lebanese march against confessionalism

AFP , Sunday 10 Apr 2011

Lebanese rally for the end of their confessional political system, which sets quotas in politics based on religious affiliation

Beirut 10 April 2011. (Reuters)
Beirut 10 April 2011. (Reuters)

Thousands of Lebanese on Sunday rallied in Beirut calling for an end to the system of power-sharing along religious lines, which they blame for the majority of problems afflicting the tiny Mediterranean nation.

Some 2,500 Lebanese, according to an AFP photographer at the scene, marched for three hours from the national museum to the centre of the capital, chanting "revolution against the regime, against corruption".

"People want the fall of the regime", and "We do not want confessionalism or civil war", cried others.

Security forces prevented them from entering Place de l'Etoile, the square where parliament is located.

"No to quotas, no to political dynasties" and "one civil status for all" read the banners deployed in the demonstration, which was organised by young activists demanding an end to the confessional system in Lebanon.

Lebanon's system of government is rooted in a 1943 power-sharing agreement along confessional lines adopted after the country won its independence from France.

Aimed at maintaining a balance between Lebanon's 18 religious sects, the agreement calls for the president to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister to be Sunni Muslim and parliament speaker a Shiite.

Other government jobs are also allocated according to religious affiliation.

Protesters have blamed the power-sharing arrangement for most of Lebanon's problems, including corruption, cronyism and the devastating 1975-1990 civil war.

The rally's organisers said they were free of any political affiliation after the Shiite movement Amal, an ally of Hezbollah, and other parties organised along sectarian lines, expressed support for the youth movement.

The organisers have set up a tent in front of the interior ministry.

Inspired by the success of popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, several groups demanding an end to Lebanon's confessional system have sprung up on the social networking site Facebook.

The first demonstration against confessionalism took place on 27 February and several others have followed in the capital and across the country.


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