Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese demonstrated Sunday, October 20th, in a festive atmosphere to demand, from north to south of the country, the departure of a political class deemed corrupt and accused of having pushed the country into a never-ending crisis.
Sunday, the Lebanese were hundreds of thousands to claim in a festive atmosphere a radical change of a political system accused of corruption and clientelism, in a context of endless economic crisis. From Beirut to the predominantly Sunni city of Tripoli in the north, from Shiite communities in the south to the Druze or Christian cities in the east, the Lebanese marched to express their fed-up on the fourth day of a movement of unprecedented scale.
The protests, which paralyze the country with the closure of banks, public institutions, and many stores, started spontaneously Thursday after the announcement of a tax on calls made via WhatsApp. A measure intended to bail out a little the bloodless finance of the country but which had to be canceled immediately under the pressure of the street. This is an unprecedented protest movement demanding the departure of the current political class considered corrupt and unfit to lead the country, in a time when living conditions of the Lebanese population have become increasingly difficult.
Protesters dismiss the government’s attempt to reform the country
As mentioned earlier, the protest movement was triggered spontaneously Thursday by the announcement of a new tax on calls made via Internet messaging applications like WhatsApp, a decision finally overturned.
The next day, Prime Minister Saad Hariri gave 72 hours to his fragile coalition government to support his reform plan blocked by political divisions. But his speech was widely interpreted by the protesters as an attempt to save the political class in extremis. “They are all warlords (…) we have been waiting for more than 30 years for them to make changes and they have not been able to,” said Sunday evening Patrick Chakar, a 20-year-old protester.
Saad Hariri agrees to implement a series of reforms to save the country
The street was heard in Lebanon. The main Lebanese parties to whom people’s anger was directed for several days in the streets of the country, accepted Sunday, October 20th, a series of reforms proposed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, according to a government source.
Faced with street pressure, the head of government gave Friday three days to his government to endorse the reforms blocked by political divisions, an ultimatum that expires Monday early evening. The main political leaders have responded to this ultimatum, agreeing to no longer impose new taxes and a privatization program, a government official told AFP on condition of anonymity. This roadmap includes also a 50% reduction in the salaries of current and former officials, a pension reform, a plan to fight corruption and a redesign of the electricity sector.
The Prime Minister’s plan finally urges the Central Bank of Lebanon and the private banks to contribute $ 3.3 billion to the state budget to get closer to the “near-zero deficit ” goal by 2020.