Anti-corruption protest leaders snub talks with Lebanon’s new prime minister

Lebanese demonstrators argue with a PML representative, right, outside in the neighborhood of Tallet Al-Khayat in Beirut on Sunday. (AFP)
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Updated 23 December 2019

Anti-corruption protest leaders snub talks with Lebanon’s new prime minister

  • The incoming prime minister faces a number of hurdles, including a boycott by influential political blocs that refused to nominate him because of the backing he received from the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and their allies

BEIRUT: Protest leaders in Lebanon boycotted talks on Sunday with incoming prime minister Hassan Diab as demonstrators took to the streets again to demand an end to government corruption and a clear-out of the political elite.

Protesters took to the streets again on Sunday, the 67th day of the protests against Lebanon’s leadership. 

Demonstrators traveled by bus from Tripoli, Saida, Tyre and Nabatieh, and gathered in Martyrs’ Square in the heart of Beirut under the slogan “Sunday of Determination.”

 

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Activist Mahmoud Fakih told Arab News: “Diab’s office is calling on activists to meet him. Since the first day, we said that there is no leadership for the revolution and that every single protester is a leader in his own right.”

 

He added: “Our demands are clear and do not need to be transmitted in person to the prime minister designate. We do not want to be represented in the government. We want an independent rescue government.”

According to one protester, Diab said that he “wants to form a government of a limited number of ministers from independents. If a government would be formed in this way why would we reject it and obstruct its path?”

Riot police intervened to prevent any clash between rival groups of activists following the meeting, while Diab’s office announced that talks with protesters would be suspended.

In Martyrs’ Square, protesters erected a huge Christmas tree, ornamenting it with the demands of the revolution, and chanting: “All means all of them and Diab is one of them.”

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A source close to Diab told Arab News that the incoming leader will refrain from issuing media statements or giving interviews in coming weeks and will focus on forming a new government.

In his most recent statement, Diab said that he intends to form a limited government of 20 ministers that will “fight corruption, and boost economic and financial recovery.”

In a Sunday sermon, Bechara Al-Rahi, the Maronite Patriarch, urged all political parties to “cooperate with the prime minister-designate and facilitate the formation of a rescue emergency government.”

Lebanon has had a caretaker government since Oct. 29, when Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister after nearly two weeks of protests. 




Protesters cheer and play music in Beirut as they take to the streets again on Sunday to demand an end to corruption and a clear-out of the political elite. (AFP)

Diab, a university professor and former education minister, has been nominated to replace Hariri, and began consultations on Saturday with parliamentary blocs to discuss the shape of a future government.

He hoped to hold talks with leaders of the civil movement “to listen to their demands.” However, only four junior activists turned up to the meeting. Diab faces significant hurdles, including a boycott by influential political blocs that refused to nominate him because of the backing he received from the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, the Amal party and their allies.

He is also opposed by pro-Hariri Sunnis, and protesters who view the whole political elite as corrupt. Diab said he would form a limited government of 20 ministers to “fight corruption, and boost economic and financial recovery.”

Mass protests began in Lebanon on Oct. 17 and led to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government resigning two weeks later. Since then the country has been gripped by political deadlock amid a worsening economic and unemployment crisis.

 


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