Lebanon News

Protesters’ reaction suggests Diab govt doomed to fail

An anti-government protesters ignite trash in garbage container to block roads, during a protest against the new government, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s new government hit its first hurdle straight out of the gate Tuesday as protesters across the country took to the streets to reject the 20-minister lineup. Almost immediately after Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s arrival at the presidential palace Tuesday evening, protesters began to gather at the hotspots of the mass uprising that erupted over three months ago, including Beirut’s Nijmeh Square and Tripoli’s al-Nour Square. “Yalla, get out Hassan,” they sang.

Protesters blocked roads across the country with burning tires, including main highways in Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon and the Bekaa Valley.

The hashtag #GovernmentOfFailure was trending on Twitter by 9 p.m.

“This government is going from one failure to another,” 43-year-old Nouhad Salloum told The Daily Star outside Parliament in Beirut.

“The people have been sacrificing themselves for 97 days demanding an independent government ... but [the politicians] brought one that suits them.”

Diab has failed to gain the approval of the public, which views the former education minister as part of the existing political class that has governed the country for decades. He was nominated as premier on Dec. 19 by Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Amal Movement and their allies, who all named ministers in Diab’s Cabinet.

Numerous demonstrations and marches have been held outside Diab’s Beirut residence since his nomination, which came two months into Lebanon’s 98-day-old nationwide uprising.

“We need to bring down the new government, it is just a reflection of the previous one,” 35-year-old Rami said.

Diab spent over a month navigating the obstacles posed by Lebanon’s sectarian system and various parties’ demands for representation.

“We saw something really sad this week,” said Nathalie, a lawyer. “The Lebanese people have been in the streets all this time to demand an independent government and to demand their rights, but [the politicians] were just discussing quotas and demanding ‘I want this many.’”

Diab’s government has been widely criticized as a “one-sided” Cabinet after the Future Movement, Lebanese Forces, Progressive Socialist Party and Kataeb Party announced they would not participate in it.

Without these parties, which are backed by the West and Saudi Arabia, Diab’s government looks likely to struggle to gain the support of the international community and access the some $11 billion in financial support pledged to Lebanon in 2018 at the CEDRE conference.

“In this country, you need two things: the approval of the people and the approval of the donors. Do you think this government will get the approval of donors?” questioned 55-year-old Fawaz.

Hundreds of men, women and children gathered outside Nijmeh Square in Tuesday’s chilly conditions, but many were not interested in the make-up of the new government. The crowd sang the same chants that have been heard throughout the last three months - against corruption, the banks and politicians’ failure to provide for their citizens.

“I am with the people and the revolution, I am not against anyone,” said 18-year-old Karine. “I just wish someone would listen to us; that’s all we want.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 22, 2020, on page 2.

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