Hundreds of Lebanese took to the streets yesterday to protest against a political stalemate that has prevented the formation of a new government seven months after elections.
The demonstration in Beirut was organized by the Communist Party but drew others frustrated by the country's deepening political and economic crisis. Wearing red scarves and raising red flags, protesters complained about corruption, poor public services and spiraling public debt that is more than 150 percent of GDP. One banner reads: "Off to the streets: enough talk." Protester Osama Assad said failure to form the government only "doubles the risks." Hanna Gharib, of the Communist Party, said the protests would escalate.
Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri said on Thursday he hoped a new national unity government would be formed by the end of the year. Seven months after a general election, Lebanese leaders are still at odds on how to parcel out cabinet positions among rival groups according to a political system that shares out government positions among Christians and Muslim sects.
The final hurdle to a deal has been Sunni representation, with six Sunni lawmakers who are aligned with the Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah group demanding a cabinet seat to reflect their gains in the election. Hariri, whose family has long dominated Lebanese Sunni politics, has ruled out giving up one of his cabinet seats for them. President Michel Aoun last week said he had launched a new effort to forge an agreement and that he had to get involved to avoid "catastrophe," an apparent reference to the economy.