‘Solution’ for Lebanon near as protests continues

A Lebanese demonstrator holds up an old identity card during a march entitled "My Nationality, My Dignity" in the center of the capital Beirut on Nov. 10, 2019, calling for giving Lebanese women the right to transmit the nationality to their children. (AFP / ANWAR AMRO)
Updated 11 November 2019

‘Solution’ for Lebanon near as protests continues

  • Salaries dip 25% as lira falls against dollar
  • Protests enter their 25th successive day

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Saad Hariri, is set to announce on Monday “positive signs of a solution to the issue of government formation in Lebanon, unless sudden developments occur.” 

That is according to Mustafa Alloush, a member of the political bureau of the Future Movement, whose comments came after Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) MP Ibrahim Kanaan suggested FPM was convinced of the formation of “a government of technocrats.”

Ali Bazzi, of the Liberation and Development Bloc headed by Speaker Nabih Berri, stressed: “The coming hours will be critical in breaking the state of political stagnation, and the Amal Movement is helping to overcome obstacles and is open to facilitating the formation of a government that serves this country.”

These latest developments come as protests in Lebanon enter their 25th day — protests that have already forced Hariri’s government to step down.

FASTFACTS

  • Activists in the civil movement have stepped up their social media campaigns to call for people to join a sit-in.
  • Public affairs expert Walid Fakhreddine said that some parties were trying to hold the protesters responsible for the deterioration of the currency exchange rate.

Activists in the civil movement have stepped up their social media campaigns to call for people to join a sit-in on Sunday. With the value of the US dollar reaching 2,000 Lebanese lira on the black market, salaries have fallen by 25 percent, and purchase value has fallen by 35-40 percent, which has fueled discontent.Public affairs expert Walid Fakhreddine told Arab News that some parties were trying to hold the protesters responsible for the deterioration of the exchange rate. “This is not a new attack technique; it is globally deployed where there are revolutions, but it is ineffective,” he added.

“There are discussions and dialogues between activists in the squares every evening, and some people tried to disrupt one of the discussions in which (the actor) Ziad Itani and I were involved,” he continued.

“Someone tried to stop Ziad Itani from speaking. One of them attacked me and hit me on my head. Then the same person tried to break the microphone Ziad was using. The third time, they attacked us and began to beat us. The security forces intervened and took the attackers aside. Phone calls took place and the aggressors were allowed to go free.

“What happened is not the first of its kind, as incidents of disruption, repression and assault on protesters are frequent in Beirut, Nabatieh and Tire.

“Everyone in this corrupt government participates in these operations because they are annoyed by the people, so they are trying to thwart their movement. They do not know that the Lebanese people are devising many methods to continue the movement, which has reached the stage of no turning back.”

Fakhreddine revealed that bank employees had joined the movement in the street and complained that the government had left them to face the dollar crisis alone.

He referred to a draft prepared by MPs on the amnesty days ago to be approved next Tuesday. He said: “It is a booby-trapped draft because it prevents trials for all cases involving administrative and financial corruption.”

Itani said the attack against him was against the backdrop of a lawsuit he has filed in court against those involved in his arrest for allegations of communicating with Israel, of which he was found innocent.

“When someone came to me in the square, he told me that it is enough that you went to Tripoli, and it seems that my words bothered them. I said that sedition and sectarianism are forbidden, and that this is the revolution of the poor. I was threatened, and the threat was acted upon in Beirut,” he told Arab News.

“They want to silence me, but I will continue to prosecute those who did me an injustice.”

In a recent report, Human Rights Watch called on the Lebanese authorities to take all possible measures to protect peaceful demonstrators and refrain from using force to disperse peaceful gatherings.

 

 


Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

Updated 25 min 48 sec ago

Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

  • The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year

TEHRAN: Iran’s low voter turnout reflects a wider malaise in a country long buckling under sanctions and more recently also hit hard by the coronavirus, spelling “a threat for everyone,” Tehran’s mayor Pirouz Hanachi told AFP.

“The turnout at the ballot box is a sign of people’s satisfaction level,” said Hanachi, mayor of Iran’s political and business center and largest city, with more than 8 million people.

“When there is dissatisfaction with the government or the state, it then reaches everyone and that includes the municipality too,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

Iran has suffered the double blow of a sharp economic downturn caused by US economic sanctions over its contested nuclear program, and the region’s most deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

Reformists allied with moderate President Hassan Rouhani lost their parliamentary majority in a landslide conservative victory in February, in a major setback ahead of presidential elections next year.

Voter turnout hit a historic low of less than 43 percent in the February polls after thousands of reformist candidates were barred from running by the Islamic republic’s powerful Guardian Council.

Such voter fatigue “can be a threat for everyone, not just reformists or conservatives,” warned the mayor, a veteran public servant with a background in urban development who is tied to the reformist camp.

The conservative resurgence reflects dissatisfaction with the Rouhani camp that had sought reengagement with the West and the reward of economic benefits — hopes that were dashed when US President Donald Trump in 2018 pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions.

The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year.

“We’re doing our best, but our situation is not a normal one,” Hanachi said. “We are under sanctions and in a tough economic situation.”

As he spoke in his town hall office, the shouts of angry garbage truck drivers echoed from the street outside, complaining they had not received pay or pensions for months.

The mayor downplayed the small rally as the kind of event that could happen in “a municipality in any other country,” adding that the men were employed not by the city itself but by contractors.

Iran’s fragile economy, increasingly cut off from international trade and deprived of crucial oil revenues, took another major blow when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit in late February.

Since then the outbreak has killed more than 12,000 people and infected over 248,000, with daily fatalities reaching a record of 200 early this week, according to official figures.

A temporary shutdown of the economy in recent months and closed borders sharply reduced non-oil exports, Iran’s increasingly important lifeline.

This accelerated the plunge of the Iranian rial against the US dollar, threatening to further stoke an already high inflation rate.

In just one impact, said Hanachi, the Teheran municipality lost 2 trillion rial ($9 million) because of sharply reduced demand for public transport in recent months.

As many Tehran residents got back into their cars to avoid tightly packed subways and buses, this has done nothing to help solve Tehran’s long-standing air pollution issue.

Tehran has had only 15 “clean” air quality days since the March 20 Persian New Year, according to the municipality.

One of Hanachi’s tasks is to fight both the virus and air pollution — a tough juggling act as car travel is safer for individuals but also worsens the smog that often cloaks the capital.

The mayor said he worried that, after restrictions on car travel were reimposed in May to reduce air pollution, subways are once again packed during peak hours, as is the bustling city center.

Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, which is now crowded with shoppers, warned Hanachi, “can become a focal point for the epidemic.”