Lebanon protesters keep pressure on government as reform deadline nears

Protesters in Lebanon returned to the streets early on Sunday, keeping pressure on Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri as a self-imposed deadline to deliver a package of badly needed reforms for the country’s crumbling economy drew near.

Anti-government protests that have swept the country since Thursday have pulled together all segments of Lebanese society in an unusually unified call for the downfall of a political elite that protesters blame for plunging the economy into crisis.

Young protesters carrying rubbish bags arrived early in central Beirut on Sunday to clean debris left from festive demonstrations the day before, while groups of marchers with drums and loudspeakers returned to keep momentum.

“I didn’t expect people from the country’s north, south and Beirut to join hands and like each other. The protests have brought together everyone and this has never happened before,” said Sahar Younis, a 32-year-old worker with a non-governmental organisation.

Hariri gave his feuding coalition partners a 72-hour deadline on Friday to agree to reforms that could ward off economic crisis, hinting he may otherwise resign. He accused his rivals of obstructing budget measures that could unlock $11 billion in Western donor pledges and help avert economic collapse.

If Hariri, a Sunni Muslim who is traditionally backed by the West and Sunni Gulf Arab allies, resigns it would be harder for the various parties that make up the ruling coalition to form a new cabinet.

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