SHAFAQNA– The protest movement that took root in mid-October 2019 in Lebanon against corruption, unemployment and appalling public services continues with its peaceful acts of protest across the Arab country.
On Sunday December 1 while a group of protesters were marching on central Beirut, a second group made their way towards the Presidential Palace at Baabda district of the capital, calling on President Michel Aoun to formally begin the process of formation of a new government. A counter-rally was held at the same district by Aoun’s supporters who described the Christian president as “their red line”. The Lebanese army deployed its forces to prevent any confrontations between the two sides.
In another part of the capital, a fourth group of demonstrators held a candlelit vigil outside the Iraqi embassy, in a show of solidarity with the anti-government protesters who have risen up against political elites and corruption. The Lebanese activists held the Iraqi flag and placards reading “the uprising in Iraq and the uprising in Lebanon are one”.
A sit-in was staged outside the Health Ministry where protesters called for the trial of people involved in import of fake cancer treatment medicines.
In Jabal Lebanon, west of the country, protesters forced government offices to shut down and prevent civil servants from attending their jobs. Businessmen and tradesmen rallied against high prices in Bab al-Ramal district of Tripoli, north of Lebanon.
Lebanese demonstrators also gathered outside the country’s Central Bank for two consecutive days Thursday and Friday, November 28 and November 29, 2019. They prevented the staff from entering the building who finally entered their workplace with the help of army forces. Protesters blame the LCB and other commercial banks to be behind the devaluation of Lebanese Pound, massive tax evasions and the current financial crisis. Similar protests against the banking system were reported from Zahle and the Beqqa Valley.
The Lebanese pound which kept a fixed rate to the US dollar for the past two decades lost some of its value due to shortage of US dollar in Lebanon’s market. The devaluation of the currency has weakened the Lebanese citizen’s purchasing power.
France, on Sunday December 1, announced that it is planning to hold a conference on Lebanon’s situation and to collect financial support for the country. French sources say Paris has conditioned its financial support for Lebanon to the formation of a new government.
No ease in political standoff
Lebanese sources deny any progress in the formation of a new government adding not a single name has been suggested to President Aoun for the post of prime minister, days after former Prime Minister Sa’ad al-Hariri announced that he will not be the next premier. Hariri stepped down at the end of October following two weeks of clashes and anti-government demonstrations.
Head of Hezbollah’s Administrative Assembly , Hashim Safi Al Din , has blamed the current standoff on political mismanagement, sheer weaknesses, contradictions, tensions and the sectarian system which have put obstacle in the way of progressive measures. Safi Al Din warned that massive and chronic political differences are able to destroy everything (achieved with difficulty).
The senior Hezbollah official accused some political factions of using economic hardship to settle political scores and to get what they could not achieve at the ballot boxes. He said Lebanon’s debt-driven economic system which has been working for almost three decades is not able to continue with massive debts any more at the time the country is under huge foreign pressure. He specially named American delegations that have been visiting Beirut in recent weeks and the political pressure they exerting on the country, adding they are protecting the interests of the United States and Israel.
Hashim Safi Al Din told the Lebanese people that their country is facing financial and economic tensions and urged them not to allow Lebanon spiral into a political vacuum.
Protests broke out in Lebanon on October 17, 2019 against what the demonstrators call sectarian political system that has been in place since the 1989 Taif Agreement that ended 15 years of civil war. They demand an end to the current economic turbulence, the corruption of the political elite and mismanagement of the domestic affairs.
Sources: Shafaqna, Naharnet, Xinhua
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