Facing protests, Lebanese leaders mull reshuffle – sources

Facing protests, Lebanese leaders mull reshuffle - sources

Lebanese leaders are discussing a possible government reshuffle, sources said on Wednesday, to defuse unprecedented protests against the political elite that have paralysed the country for a week.

Lebanon’s highest Christian Maronite authority and a prominent Druze politician threw their weight behind the groundswell for change, calling for qualified technocrats to be included in any government shake-up.

With a population of 6 million people including around 1 million Syrian refugees, Lebanon has been swept by protests against politicians blamed for corruption and waste in a state mired in debt and economic crisis.

Flag-waving protesters kept roads blocked with vehicles and makeshift barricades for a seventh day on Wednesday. Banks have been closed since Friday and will remain shut on Thursday, the banking association said. Schools are also closed.

Soldiers scuffled with demonstrators as they struggled to unblock main roads.

“We’re staying in the streets until the looted public funds are restored, until the government falls,” said Heba Haidar, protesting at a makeshift barricade of empty trash containers and steel rods in Beirut.

Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s government announced an emergency reform package on Monday, to try to assuage public anger and steer the state away from a looming financial crisis.

Hariri’s government, which took office at the start of the year, groups nearly all of the main parties in a sectarian power-sharing system.

The idea of a reshuffle “is being discussed widely among politicians in the country and we might get there if the protests remain in the street in the coming days”, a senior political source said. Another political source said the idea was “starting to mature”. “The street is imposing its rhythm on the political class,” he added.