Lebanese PM Hariri resigns as protesters demand the dismissal of the parliament and new elections
Kehila News, Kehila News Israel Staff, October 30, 2019
Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri resigned and dissolved his government, declaring he has reached a “dead end” in trying to resolve the crisis.
Lebanon, Israel’s neighbor to the north, is on the brink of economic turmoil, and since October 17 violent protests have paralyzed the small country. The proverbial “stick that broke the camel’s back” was the government’s decision to tax the use of the “whatsapp” app. The move was intended to alleviate the economic crisis, but the violent protests that erupted have worsened the situation considerably. Many schools and universities, as well as all the banks, are now closed, and many are afraid that salaries will not be paid at the end of the month.
As long as banks are closed and roads are blocked, Lebanon loses about 150 million USD per day. The Lebanese pound becomes weakened every day. A big fear is that the (mostly Saudi) investors in the Lebanese banks could decide to pull their funding. If there is also a bank run in Lebanon as soon as they open, the economic crisis will deepen significantly.
Demonstrators are protesting against corruption within the government, plagued by nepotism and secret deals. Even though the government passed a number of reforms in order to appease the protests, including cutting their own salaries in half, the demands of the protesters escalated to include the resignation of the government, the dismissal of the parliament and new elections, as well as a change in the current constitution. What sets this demonstration apart from many earlier ones is that it seems to include all different religions and faiths, all levels of society, and it takes place in many smaller cities as well, not just in Beirut. In most cases, the protests have been fairly peaceful so far, and security forces have acted with restraint.
Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has accused the protesters of being paid by foreign powers, and a number of Hezbollah activists have attacked protesters in the streets. Following the resignation of Hariri, people from Hezbollah and Amal (another Shia party) burned tents of protesters in order to clear the road and beat up people.
In some places the message of the resignation caused dances of joy in the streets among the protesters. The question is whether this really will stabilize the situation or if the power vacuum it leaves will make things worse. Many protesters hope that this is the first step towards a true democracy, while others are worried that the turmoil and uncertainty will only increase.