Lebanon protesters react angrily to finance minister’s appointment as new PM

Lebanese protesters who have been demanding radical reform reacted with anger Friday to the reported designation of Mohammed Safadi as new prime minister, who they regard as emblematic of the country's failed political system. (Reuters)
Updated 15 November 2019

Lebanon protesters react angrily to finance minister’s appointment as new PM

  • Outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29
  • President Michel Aoun has said he will support the formation of a government including technocrats

BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters who have been demanding radical reform reacted with anger Friday to the reported designation of a new prime minister they regard as emblematic of a failed political system.

According to senior officials speaking on condition of anonymity and Lebanese press reports, key political players agreed that Mohammed Safadi should be tasked with forming the next government.

Outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29, nearly two weeks into the unprecedented nationwide protests demanding the wholesale removal of a ruling elite seen as corrupt and incompetent.

President Michel Aoun has said he will support the formation of a government including technocrats but he has not yet announced consultations over a new line-up and there was no official confirmation that Safadi had been designated.

Demonstrators in his hometown of Tripoli wasted no time in rejecting Safadi, however, and gathered in front of one of his properties to protest against a reported nomination they regard as a provocation.

"Choosing Mohammed Safadi for prime minister proves that the politicians who rule us are in a deep coma, as if they were on another planet," said Jamal Badawi, 60.

Another protester said that as a business tycoon and former minister, Safadi was an embodiment of the kind of political class the protest movement wants to remove.

"He's an integral part of this leadership's fabric," said Samer Anous, a university professor. "Safadi does not meet the aspirations of the popular uprising in Lebanon."

A protest was planned in the afternoon at Zaytuna Bay, a luxury marina in central Beirut which is fun by a company that Safadi chairs and which many say encroaches on public land.

Several dozen private hospitals across the country closed their doors to patients -- except for emergencies -- to protest shortages of essential goods following delays in payments by the state.

Last week the head of the syndicate of private hospitals, Suleiman Haroun, said that current medical "stocks in the country will not last more than a month".

A lack of access to the US currency meant the situation could deteriorate fast, he warned.

Banks, which have restricted access to dollars since the start of the protests, remained closed after employees went on strike over alleged mistreatment by customers, while many school and university classes were disrupted again.

For two decades the Lebanese pound has been pegged to the greenback at around 1,500 to the dollar, with both currencies used interchangeably in daily life.

The army meanwhile said it had arrested 20 demonstrators on Friday after soldiers were targeted as they attempted to reopen roads closed by protesters.

Nine were later released, seven were held for questioning and four were transferred to the military police, the army said without giving further details.


Algeria to ease coronavirus restrictions on Sunday

Updated 38 min 12 sec ago

Algeria to ease coronavirus restrictions on Sunday

  • The North African country has so far reported 9,831 cases of the novel coronavirus, with 681 deaths

ALGIERS: Algeria will resume some economic activities and allow a number of businesses to reopen from Sunday as part of a plan to end the coronavirus lockdown, the prime minister's office said on Thursday.
It said the government would allow the construction and public works sector to resume activity to help ease the impact of the coronavirus-linked restrictions imposed in March.
The government will also permit the reopening of businesses such as home appliances, vegetable and fruit markets, pastries and men's barbershops.
The second stage of the lockdown relaxation will start on June 14, allowing more businesses to resume, the government said, without giving details.
“The success of the plan to resume economic activity remains dependent on the ability of merchants and operators to ensure the safety of their employees and customers,” the prime minister's office said.
The North African country has so far reported 9,831 cases of the novel coronavirus, with 681 deaths.