Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 31 March 2020

Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

Protesters stepped up their campaign for a new, technocrat government in recent days

A protester stands atop his car with a national flag as others block a highway in Beirut, Lebanon on January 17, 2020. AP Photo
A protester stands atop his car with a national flag as others block a highway in Beirut, Lebanon on January 17, 2020. AP Photo

Protesters blocked several main roads across Lebanon on Friday as unprecedented demonstrations against a political elite accused of corruption and incompetence entered their fourth month.

The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17 has resurged this week, over delays in forming a new cabinet to address the country's growing economic crisis.

No progress seemed to have been made on a final line-up, which protesters demand be made up solely of independent experts and empty of traditional political parties.

In central Beirut on Friday, dozens of protesters stood between parked cars blocking a key road linking the city's east and west.

"We blocked the road because it's something they can't move," Marwan Karam said.

The protester condemned what he regarded as efforts to form yet another government representing the usual sharing out of power between the traditional parties.

Lebanese anti-government protesters block a highway in Beirut with rubbish containers on January 17, 2020. AP Photo/
Lebanese anti-government protesters block a highway in Beirut with rubbish containers on January 17, 2020. AP Photo/

"We don't want a government of masked political figures," said Mr Karam, 30. "Any such government will fall. We won't give it any chance in the street."

Forming a new cabinet is often a drawn-out process in Lebanon, where a complex system seeks to maintain balance between various political parties representing a multitude of religious confessions.

Nearby, Carlos Yammine, 32, said he did not want yet another "cake-sharing government".

"What we have asked for from the start of the movement is a reduced, transitional, emergency government of independents," he said, leaning against his car.

Elsewhere, demonstrators closed roads including in Lebanon's second city of Tripoli, although some were later reopened, the National News Agency said.

The protest movement is in part fuelled by the worst economic crisis that Lebanon has witnessed since its 1975-1990 civil war.

The protests this week saw angry demonstrators attack banks following the imposition of sharp curbs on cash withdrawals to stem a liquidity crisis.

On Thursday night, protesters vandalised three more banks in the capital's Hamra district, smashing their glass fronts and leaving graffiti on ATMs.

Earlier, Lebanon's security services released most of the more than 100 protesters detained over the previous 48 hours, lawyers said.

Updated: January 17, 2020 03:53 PM

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