Lebanon News

Day 53: Protesters demand independent premier

People protest in Beirut, Dec. 8, 2019. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT/SIDON: Protesters gathered Sunday near Parliament in Downtown Beirut, demanding an "independent" prime minister.

"We want someone clean [as a prime minister],” said Cynthia, who asked not to use her last name. She added that she was against parliamentary consultations that would lead to "corrupt people" returning to power.

“They [the politicians] still haven't heard us. It’s as if they didn’t understand what our demands were in these past 50 days," another protester, Zeina, told The Daily Star.

Sunday marked the 53rd day of nationwide anti-government protests.

Protesters rushed to Downtown Beirut after Samir Khatib withdrew his candidacy to be the next prime minister.

For Zeina, she supported Khatib's move, but said she was against Saad Hariri returning to the premiership.

Hariri resigned from his post after the protests, which started on Oct. 17.

Khatib was expected to be designated prime minister, but withdrew his candidacy on Sunday after Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian said he supports Hariri for the post.

President Michel Aoun has called for binding parliamentary consultations to take place Monday.

Parliament Police and protesters briefly scuffled during the protest after some demonstrators tried to open a street leading to the Parliament building, but were unsuccessful.

Protesters gathered for what they have called the "Sunday of Fury" – a demonstration against President Michel Aoun's consultations with lawmakers, in order to appoint a new prime minister.

The demonstrators called for the formation of a government from outside the current political and economic establishment "that we have seen nothing from, but failure and corruption," according to social media.

Around noon, some of the congregation who had attended a mass to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the assassination of prominent Lebanese journalist Gebran Tueni scuffled with security forces, as they attempted to enter Nijmeh Square, where the Parliament building is located.

The mass was held in a church inside the square. Approximately 20 people attempted to head towards Parliament and later said in televised remarks that they were beaten by security forces and people in civilian clothes.

The protesters said their phones were taken and all videos documenting the incident were deleted.

However, one video circulating on social media showed Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces personnel running after people and hitting them with batons near the rear entrance of the church.

"I was filming how a guy was beaten. They deleted the video," Yahya Mawloud, a former candidate for the 2018 parliamentary elections and the 2019 Tripoli by-elections said.

Another protester, identified by local media as Ahmad, a professor at the Lebanese University, said they were held for around an hour, while security forces checked their phones.

"We do not know why security forces are acting with such violence with us. They took us inside and searched our phones, violating our privacy," he added.

Earlier in the day, a motorcade departed from the Ring Bridge on a tour around the capital. It passed through several areas in Beirut, including Hamra and Corniche al-Mazraa, before returning to Riad al-Solh square. Protesters who joined the motorcade said Monday's consultations are not constitutional.

Aoun is set to hold parliamentary consultations Monday, which are constitutionally required to name a person to form the government.

Many protesters and a number of politicians have questioned the legality of the consultations, after political parties neared a consensus on a candidate to be named premier.

Aoun called for the consultations last week, over a month after Hariri resigned on Oct. 29 under pressure from protesters.

While demonstrators have since been calling for parliamentary consultations to be held, they criticized the prior agreement of politicians on the candidate.

Lebanese citizens have filled the country's streets daily since Oct. 17 in an uprising against the ruling class and rampant state corruption.

Protesters in Sidon gathered to cook and distribute food in an initiative to help people in need. They brought shopping carts filled with food and products and began to cook at the Elia intersection, a regular site for protests.





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