Lebanon’s protests move from spontaneity to organization

Lebanese rally in Beirut on the 4th day of demonstrations against tax increases and official corruption, on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 03 November 2019

Lebanon’s protests move from spontaneity to organization

  • ‘The people want everyone in power to resign and not only the prime minister’

BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters are determined to continue with their activities even after the expiry of a 72-hour deadline, given by Prime Minister Saad Hariri to his partners in power, to agree to reforms to save the country from economic turmoil, which ends on Monday at 7 p.m. “The people want everyone in power to resign and not only the prime minister. They want a mini technocrat government whose goal is to establish an electoral law that will ensure proper representation, to hold early parliamentary elections and elect a new president,” said Mahmoud Fakih, protesting in Beirut’s Riad Al-Solh Square.
Fakih called on politicians to “not bet on the waning of the momentum of the protests in the street. The more you speak, the more the people will reject you, that is what we saw after the televised speech of Hezbollah’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, on Saturday. The Lebanese people saw the results of his party’s presence in power.”
The protests, now into their fourth day, have heard chants of “the people want to topple the regime.”
Protesters have been waving Lebanese flags at the central sit-in in Beirut. Tents belonging to activists have been erected, distributing the flags, as well as hats and water bottles free of charge to the public.
“We are paying from our own money and we are not resorting to any external funding so that no one can say that there are outsiders behind our action. We will continue to support people as long as people continue to take to the streets,” said activist Karl Abu Malhab.
The protesters have devised various ways to express their peaceful movement, through colorful dress and painted faces, as well as through vast Lebanese flags extending dozens of meters, and through the dabkeh dances. Some have even taken pets with them, and set up barbecues and grills.
Sarah Sultan, who came to the protests with her husband Abdul Rahman, called for an end to the Taif agreement, because it divided the country into sectarian and partisan quotas. “We have to hold accountable those in power, even the directors general of public departments,” she told Arab News. “These protests shall not end, because people are suffering,” Rahman added.
Aref Jouaidi and his wife Kawthar brought their baby twins to Riad Al-Solh Square. Aref said: “I am here because of my children — I want them to have a better future. We want to cleanse the power of the corrupted. I will continue to protest — already there is no work and we lose trade for our business every day.”
Another protester, Ryan Al-Habal, said that he did not belong to any political party. He took to the street, he said, because he “saw on TV how the barrier of fear of expressing our opinion toward politicians and party leaders broke. We have full freedom to express our suffering. People no longer tolerate the politicians because they have brought us to ruin.”
Darine Dandashli, an activist distributing Lebanese flags, said: “The activists are paying out of their own pocket — I have so far paid $1,000 — as we do not want anyone to distort our movement. It started as a spontaneous civil movement that needs now some organization.
“We are forming committees of activists, one to take over the streets, one to handle logistics, and another that will work out an alternative solution by explaining people’s demands in an economic and political working paper. There is also a constitutional committee working on how to move after the resignation of the current government to an interim government whose role is limited to holding early parliamentary elections whose members are from outside the ruling authority,” explained Dandashli.


Lebanese lawmakers to defy naming of new PM

Updated 07 December 2019

Lebanese lawmakers to defy naming of new PM

  • Saad Hariri submitted the resignation of his government on Oct. 29 as a result of ongoing mass protests against corruption

BEIRUT: Three lawmakers and members of Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s parliamentary bloc will not abide by its decision to name a new prime minister on Monday. 

Meanwhile, activists in the civil movement are holding meetings to announce a general strike and the blocking of roads on Monday in protest over reports that the new government will not include technocrats.

Samir Al-Khatib is considered the most favored candidate after preliminary consultations conducted by Aoun with his allies prior to setting the date for binding parliamentary consultations to nominate a Sunni prime minister, as required by the Lebanese constitution.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted the resignation of his government on Oct. 29 as a result of ongoing mass protests against corruption. He later said he would not agree to head a new government unless it consisted of technocrats.

Lawmaker Neemat Frem urged citizens to provide him with the name of their favorite candidate to head the new government, “for you are the primary source of authority, and it is my duty to convey your voice in the binding parliamentary consultations.”

Lawmaker Chamel Roukoz said he will not nominate anyone for the position of prime minister.

Lawmaker Michel Daher declared his intention to boycott the parliamentary consultations if Al-Khatib is the only candidate.

Aoun assured a delegation of British financial and investment institutions, and US bank Morgan Stanley, that binding parliamentary consultations will take place on Monday to form a new government, which will help Lebanon’s friends launch agreed-to development projects.

“The new government’s priority will be to address the economic and financial conditions as soon as it is formed,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

Samir Al-Khatib is considered the most favored candidate after preliminary consultations conducted by Aoun with his allies prior to setting the date for binding parliamentary consultations to nominate a Sunni prime minister, as required by the Lebanese constitution.

On Friday, Hariri sent letters to the leaders of a number of countries with good relations with Lebanon. 

He asked them to help Lebanon secure credit to import goods from these countries, in order to ensure food security and availability of raw materials for production in various sectors.

His media office said the move “is part of his efforts to address the shortage of financial liquidity, and to secure procuring the basic import requirements for citizens.”

Among the leaders Hariri wrote to are Saudi Arabia’s King Salman; the presidents of France, Russia, Egypt and Turkey; the prime ministers of China and Italy; and the US secretary of state.

On Dec. 11, Paris is due to host a meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon. Reuters quoted a European source as saying: “France has already sent invitations to attend the group meeting.”

Protesters continued their sit-ins in front of government institutions in Nabatieh, Zahle and Saida.

In Tripoli, protesters blocked the city’s main roads, which were eventually reopened by the army.

In Akkar, protesters raided public institutions and called for an “independent government that fights corruption, restores looted funds, and rescues the economic situation and living conditions from total collapse.”

Lebanese designer Robert Abi Nader canceled a fashion show that was due to be organized in Downtown Beirut, where protesters are gathering. 

Abi Nader said he intended through his show to express support for the protests by designing a special outfit called “the bride of the revolution,” and revenues were to be dedicated to families in need.