Protests engulf Lebanon amid calls for Hariri to step down

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea called on Hariri to submit his resignation, paving the way for the dissolution of the 30-man Cabinet.
by Georgi Azar

18 October 2019 | 12:32

Source: by Annahar

  • by Georgi Azar
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 18 October 2019 | 12:32

Protests turned violent in the late hours of Thursday night, with a number of demonstrators turning to rioting as scuffles broke out with police officers stationed in downtown Beirut (Annahar)

BEIRUT: Massive protests engulfing Lebanon have cast doubt on the future of the government, with a bevy of political leaders calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri. 

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea called on Hariri to submit his resignation, paving the way for the dissolution of the 30-man Cabinet. 

"I know the efforts the Prime Minister has made to remedy the situation, unfortunately, the ministerial majority had other things in mind," Geagea said in a statement. 

Speaking on Thursday night, as the protests began gaining steam, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt told LBCI that "he prefers to quit with Hariri."

"I won't leave him alone," he said while echoing Geagea's sentiments. "This administration has failed and certain actors have attempted to impose their will on the Prime Minister," Jumblatt said in a veiled reference to Hezbollah. 

Jumblatt's PSP has two ministers in the Cabinet, the Minister of Education and Minister of Industry, while the Lebanese Forces secured four posts, the Labor, Administrative Development and Social Affairs Ministries, along with the post of Deputy Prime Minister. 

A Cabinet session scheduled for this afternoon at the Baabda Presidential Palace has been called off, according to sources. 

Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan, a member of Hariri's Future Movement, said that no decision regarding the fate of the Cabinet has been made, with Hariri scheduled to speak later on Friday. 

“If the government falls, any other government that follows will not have better options than the ones in front of the current government,” she told local media on Thursday. “Changing the government is not a solution, and if it fell then collapse will be inevitable.”

Faisal Karami, a prominent Sunni MP from Tripoli, also called on Minister of Foreign Trade Hassan Murad to resign. Murad's designation to the post was mired with controversy after Hezbollah threatened to further delay the Cabinet formation if he was not given a seat at the table. 

Despite the urgency of the situation following the parliamentary elections of 2018, Lebanon's Cabinet was finally formed on January 31, 2019, almost nine months after a series of tug and pull over the allocation of ministries.

Extended negotiations between the major political players finally concluded with neither party securing veto power, the equivalent of 11 ministries, in a 30-member government.

Over the course of that very same timespan, Lebanon's government has been hit with a series of setbacks, including political paralysis, U.S sanctions on Hezbollah, and mounting public pressure to restore confidence in the economy.

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