BEIRUT: Protesters in Lebanon are planning mass demonstrations on Sunday in Riad Al-Solh and Martyrs’ Square in the heart of Beirut to further their demands for political reform in the country. Zeina Al-Helou, a public affairs analyst, told Arab News that “the call to bring down the government has been met, but there are other demands we want to achieve.”
Protesters are now focused on forming a government from outside the ruling political groups, she said.
“We did not topple Saad Hariri personally, but we toppled a government that includes Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement and other political components, because their political practice over the years brought us to the situation we are in,” she added.
Protests across the country eased on Saturday, the 17th day of unrest.
Meanwhile, supporters of the Amal Movement staged a counter-protest near the home of Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri following a rumor on social media that protesters would rally there on Saturday to call for his resignation. Al-Helou said that although the social media rumor was false, “protesters’ enthusiasm has not cooled.”
“We are counting on people to join the central rally on Sunday. The protests are continuing,” she said.
“Protesters are in one valley and the political forces in power are in another,” she said.
Al-Helou said that the Lebanese authorities “are all betting on procrastination and negotiating their shares. They do not know that the people have something else in mind.
“It is not our goal to bring in a government that follows the same approach and style. This is not what is required. People are more aware than the authorities and their demand is a salvation government with specific powers to reform the judiciary, adopt an electoral law, hold early elections and set laws to prevent collapse. It is not enough to have a technocrat government; it must understand and feel the people’s pain.
“We will spare no effort to use the street as a means of pressure,” she added. Lebanon’s presidency has yet to issue a schedule of parliamentary consultations to appoint a replacement for Hariri, who resigned four days ago.
The protesters are in one valley and the political forces in power are in another.
Zeina Al-Helou, Lebanese expert
The Presidential Press Office said on Saturday that President Michel Aoun has been making the necessary contacts, “but the current situation in the country requires a calm handling.”
“Expediting consultations in such cases can have harmful repercussions,” the presidency said.
Meanwhile, a leading figure in the Future Movement, Mustafa Alloush, said that communication “is no longer possible between Prime Minister Hariri and the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gibran Bassil, and the past experience between the two men made the coexistence between them intolerable after the dictates became boundless.”
“Bassil is a person who wants everything in the state. Coexistence with him is impossible,” Alloush said.
“The sovereign government demanded by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is a government that maintains the same balance of the outgoing government, and Hezbollah refuses to change the current structure,” Alloush said.
“The structure of the current system is no longer useful today and the opposition must be a real force of pressure. We refuse to be in a government ruled by Gibran Bassil.”
Supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement are due to hold a protest near the presidential palace on Sunday.