Lebanon’s protests look set to continue, raising fears of civil war

 

Following the news that protests have continued in Lebanon, following the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, which aimed to draw a line under the protests and to allow President Aoun, parliament and the government to restore order;

John Bambridge, Features and Analysis Editor at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view on the protests:

“In barely three weeks, the socio-political environment in Lebanon has devolved from one of business as usual by the government to one where unprecedented reforms have been passed in a matter of days and Prime Minister Saad Hariri has once again been compelled to resign.

“When the protests began on 17 October, over taxes due to be ratified by the cabinet on 22 October, few would have anticipated that instead, by 21 October, the government would not only have backed down, but also have approved concessions to the Lebanese public addressing inflated government pay and progressing overdue reforms.

“However, the protests rapidly grew in scale and scope to span communities across Lebanese cities, including in the bastions of Hezbollah in southern Beirut where unrest is notably rare, and where the population would usually follow the lead of the group’s spiritual leader Hassan Nasrallah.

“The protests have also proven to be remarkable for their civility and the casual, party-like atmosphere that has taken hold, as opposed to the more fraught recent protests in Egypt and Iraq.

“Hezbollah itself appears to have been caught off-guard, being far more used to vocally opposing the government than its role since the May 2018 election of being part of it. It is by no means used to being on the receiving end of criticism and popular anger, and the reaction of its members has been muddled.

“On 24 October, Hezbollah supporters clashed with protestors during the day only for Nasrallah to speak that same evening in support of the protest movement, though against the blocking of roads by protestors, while telling his own supporters to not get involved or to politicise the demonstrations.

“Samir Geagea, the leader of Lebanese Forces, a Christina political party, is perhaps Lebanon’s shrewdest political operator, having chosen to withdraw his party and his four cabinet ministers from government within just three days of the start of the protests, recusing himself from further blame.

“The problem with the situation is that the protest movement is not centralised, has no leadership figures and no clear demands, and therefore there is no real concept of an endgame to work towards.

“Instead it is being defined by what is unacceptable, and this includes the limited reforms agreed to by the cabinet on 21 October and the continued tenure of other senior figures in government. It is therefore what, if any, political settlement could conceivably be reached between the opposing parties.

 

Source: GlobalData

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