Protests in Lebanon continue

What happened: Lebanese security forces clashed with protesters on Sunday night in defiance of a violent crackdown on demonstrators the previous night.

  • On Saturday Lebanese riot police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters. A hundred people were treated for injuries and 20 security forces personnel were wounded.
  • Yesterday’s protest started peacefully but turned violent as some demonstrators threw bottles and fireworks at police officers, who responded with tear gas and water cannons.
  • In northern Lebanon a group of people set fire to the offices of two major political parties on Sunday, the state-run National News Agency said.
  • The weekend violence came ahead of today’s meeting between the President and parliamentary blocs to appoint a new Prime Minister. Saad Hariri, who resigned as prime minister on 29 October during the country’s largest nationwide protest in more than a decade, is expected to be reappointed to the post. Protesters have told reporters that they won’t accept Hariri as prime minister, demanding an independent head of government not affiliated with existing parties.
  • Interior Minister, Raya el-Hassan, ordered an inquiry into Saturday’s fierce crackdown by security forces.

Context: Lebanon is suffering from nationwide protests at Government failure to deal with a stagnant economy, rising prices, high unemployment, dire public services and corruption.

  • The protesters are demanding an end to government corruption and the overhaul of the political system and the formation of an independent, non-sectarian cabinet.
  • Lebanon’s parliament has failed to propose an independent candidate for Prime Minister despite weeks of negotiation.
  • The country is facing its worst financial crisis since the end of the 15-year civil war in 1990. The Lebanese pound has lost about 20 per cent of its value against the US dollar on the local market and public debt is equivalent to 150 per cent of GDP, one of the highest ratios in the world.
  • On 4 December the Lebanese Central Bank instructed banks to cut interest rates on dollar and Lebanese pound deposits by half. Last week rating agencies Moody and Fitch warned of a deterioration in the status of Lebanon’s top banks.

Looking ahead: Protesters have made it very clear that they will not accept the return of Saad Hariri as Prime Minister. However, with previous efforts failing to agree another candidate, Lebanon is set for further rioting and a potential collapse of the current Parliament. Without a new government in place to carry out reforms, foreign donors will continue to hold back financial support.

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