Lebanon News

Day 78: Protesters gather outside Parliament

Protesters hold a sit-in at a bank in Sidon, Jan. 2, 2020. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

BEIRUT/SIDON: Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the entrance to Nijmeh SquareThursday evening on the 78th day of the nationwide uprising.

The demonstration, was called for under the title “the people reject the government of quotas,” in apparent reference to the requirement that every religious sect is fairly represented in Cabinet. Protesters have been calling for a government made up of experts who do not have affiliations to the political establishment.

Hassan Diab was designated to form a Cabinet on Dec. 19 following the resignation of Saad Hariri as prime minister nearly two months earlier.

Diab has encountered hurdles to the formation process, as the leaders of the Future Movement, Lebanese Forces, Kataeb Party and the Progressive Socialist Party have said their parties would not participate in the government.

This, combined with the fact that some Sunni candidates turned down his invitation to participate in the next government, means Diab faces a challenge in ensuring the representation of the Sunni sect.

According to local TV channel LBCI, the protesters outside Parliament were split into two: those supporting Diab as prime minister-designate, and those against him.

Earlier Thursday, several protesters were injured during scuffles with security forces Thursday as they held a sit-in at the Sidon branch of Credit Libanais bank.

A few dozen people headed to the bank Thursday morning to protest low withdrawal limits and corruption in the banking sector.

They clashed with security forces inside the bank, leading to several injuries. One person was taken to hospital for treatment.

At a bank in south Lebanon's Nabatieh, customers clashed with employees after they were reportedly denied access to their deposits.

Protesters chanted "down with the rule of the bank" outside the branch after an employee closed the door.

Such incidents have become a regular occurrence since banks enforced informal capital controls in late 2019, limiting the amount customers can withdraw from their accounts on a daily and weekly basis.

The Federation of Banking Employees threatened to go on strike in a statement issued Thursday, citing verbal abuse and attacks on staff.

Banks closed their doors for more than a week in November due to a similar strike. They reopened after then-Interior Minister Raya El Hassan said bank staff would be supported by members of the Internal Security Forces.

The 78th day of Lebanon's nationwide protesters began at the country's ports.

Dozens of Lebanese gathered in front of Beirut’s Port to protest against illegal smuggling and the alleged corruption of customs, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Activists say Beirut Port, Lebanon’s key trade hub, which is estimated to earn the state over $1 billion in revenue each year, is a prominent example of corruption in state institutions.

A similar protest took place in front of Tripoli’s port where dozens of protesters chanted “Stop the corruption; cleanse the port from those who are corrupt.” The protesters set up a tent at the port’s entrance and attempted to prevent employees from entering.

Protesters in Tripoli also vandalized and broke the locks of public institution buildings in the city, including the Qadisha Electricity Company and the Ogero building.

Roads in Zahle and Bekaa, were briefly blocked by protesters Thursday morning.

Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have taken to the streets since Oct. 17 in mass protests against corruption, a sectarian ruling class and economic mismanagement.

 

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