Protests proceed as Lebanon’s Hassan Diab threatens to cease work | Protests Information
Protesters have blocked streets in Lebanon and set tires and furniture on fire for the fifth year in a row when Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab threatened to end his duties to pressure from politicians to form a new government.
The renewed protests on Saturday came amid anger over the collapse of the Lebanese pound, which hit a new low of $ 10,000 on Tuesday. The currency crash has led to a sharp rise in prices and delays in the arrival of fuel deliveries, leading to prolonged blackouts across the country in some areas that last longer than 12 hours a day.
In the Lebanese capital, a small group of protesters outside the banking association demanded access to their deposits and then went to the parliament building in downtown Beirut to express their frustration.
About 50 demonstrators burned tires in Martyrs Square in central Beirut.
“The dollar is 10,500 [pounds] and everyone has four or five children on their hands, including their parents. They (corrupt politicians) have to feed us, ”shouted one protester.
In Tripoli, Lebanon’s poorest city, protesters blocked several streets and held a sit-in at a roundabout near the city port. According to the official National News Agency, they called for the resignation of all political officials. Protesters also blocked roads connecting the cities of Tripoli, Minnieh and Akkar with trucks, water tanks, dumpsters and stones, the NNA reported.
Protesters burn tires to close main street after the Lebanese pound hit a record low against the dollar on the black market in Beirut, Lebanon on Saturday, March 6, 2021 [Hassan Ammar/ AP]The financial crisis in Lebanon that erupted in 2019 pushed almost half of its six million residents into poverty, wiping out jobs and savings, and reducing consumer purchasing power. A new cabinet could make reforms necessary to trigger billions in international aid.
The country has been rudderless since August when Diab’s cabinet resigned due to the port explosion in Beirut that devastated parts of the capital. Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri was nominated in October but was unable to form a new cabinet with President Michel Aoun due to the political deadlock.
‘What are you waiting for?’
In a televised address on Saturday, Diab threatened to suspend his janitorial duties and warned that the country would quickly head towards chaos if politicians could not put their differences aside and form a new government.
“If seclusion helps to build a cabinet, I am willing to resort to it, although it is against my belief as it disrupts the entire state and harms the Lebanese,” Diab said.
“What are you waiting for? More suffering? More chaos? “he said, reprimanding senior politicians without calling them outstanding for the shape and size of government as the country continued to slide into the abyss.
“What will a minister more or less have? [in the cabinet] do when the whole country collapses, ”he asked.
“Lebanon is in great danger and the Lebanese are paying the price.”
The Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab speaks at the Government Palace in Beirut, Lebanon on March 6, 2021 [Dalati Nohra/Handout via Reuters]Last year Lebanon saw a popular uprising against its political leaders, the bankruptcy of the state and banking system, a COVID-19 pandemic and a massive explosion in August that killed 200 people and destroyed parts of Beirut.
The collapse of the Lebanese pound on Tuesday was the final straw for many who have nearly tripled the prices of consumer goods such as diapers and grains since the crisis began.
“Isn’t the struggle for milk a sufficient incentive to break through paperwork and roughen the margins to form a government?” Diab said, referring to a recent incident at the Beirut supermarket where shoppers were fighting over powdered milk.
A video of the argument went viral on social media, highlighting the desperate state of the economy.
“The social conditions are getting tougher, the financial conditions are a heavy burden on the country, the political conditions are becoming more and more complex,” added the Prime Minister.
“The country faces enormous challenges that a normal government cannot face without political consensus. How can a caretaker government meet these challenges?”