Lebanese blocs agree to ‘government of specialists representing protester movement’

Lebanese blocs agree to ‘government of specialists representing protester movement’
A police officer tries to move protesters back to let cars pass as they demonstrate outside of Lebanon Central Bank in Beirut. (Reuters)
Updated 12 November 2019

Lebanese blocs agree to ‘government of specialists representing protester movement’

Lebanese blocs agree to ‘government of specialists representing protester movement’
  • Anti-corruption legislative session cancelled, security stepped up amid calls for general strike

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s internal security forces have been put on full standby to deal with a possible general strike on Tuesday as news emerged of a political agreement to set up a new “government of specialists.”

Trade unions, students, and activists in the country’s civil movement have called for national industrial action as part of “disobedience week.”

The planned walkouts were the latest move by anti-government protesters to force the setting up of a new government following the resignation 10 days ago of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

However, on Monday evening the parliamentary bloc loyal to the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Lebanese President Michel Aoun announced its agreement to “a government of specialists approved by the Parliament and representing the protester movement.”

At the same time, the Future bloc, loyal to Hariri, pledged its support for the former premier’s efforts “to prepare for a transitional phase in which a government of specialists is responsible for restoring confidence.”

Lebanese political leader, Ibrahim Kanaan, said: “There is a need for consultation to reach acceptable solutions on a government that respects the constitution and has a viable project.”

The pro-Aoun bloc, along with its ally Hezbollah, had insisted that FPM chairman Gebran Bassil, a target of the recent demonstrations, remained in the Cabinet, but in a government of specialists there would be no place for him.

The Lebanese Parliament had been due to hold a legislative session on Tuesday to set certain anti-corruption bills, a key demand of demonstrators. But protesters and the Lebanese Judges Association claimed the general amnesty bill would have protected certain people and there were threats on social media to prevent deputies from reaching the Parliament building, causing many to say they would not attend.

After meeting with his parliamentary bloc, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced the adjournment of the session to Nov. 19 in order to “maintain security.”

He told media that the protesters’ campaign against the general amnesty law aimed “to keep the political vacuum. Otherwise, how do we explain the rejection of a session, where the majority of its agenda is to discuss popular demands raised by the movement itself, crediting the movement for the inclusion of these projects?”

Berri asked ministers and deputies of his current and former bloc “to lift banking secrecy,” and called for “the necessity to form an inclusive government that does not exclude the movement.”

However, the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers described Tuesday’s planned meeting as “a violation of the constitution and ignoring the protesters’ demands.”

Street protests and sit-ins outside public institutions continued as demonstrations, which have rocked Lebanon, entered their 26th day.

The union representing employees of cellular operators in Lebanon called for “an open strike starting Tuesday” to protest against drastic wage cuts which it claimed had left many workers earning “only 30 percent of their annual income.”

Hezbollah’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, said: “All the doors are open to reach the country’s best interest.

“No party, leadership, religious or political authority, or sect can protect anyone who is corrupt. This is major growth in the country,” he added.