Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 April 2020

Lebanese Parliament passes vote of confidence in the new government amid violent clashes

More than 300 people were injured as protesters tried to stop MPs approving new government

The Lebanese Parliament passed a vote of confidence in the new government on Tuesday evening after hundreds were injured during violent clashes between protesters and security forces.

Eighty-four of 128 MPs attended the Parliament session on Tuesday despite thousands of protesters trying to stop them.

Sixty-three MPs voted for the new government, 20 voted against and one abstained, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Many Lebanese people reject the new government announced in late January after three months of protests against a collapsing economy.

Carrying banners that read “no trust”, protesters were pushed back by riot police and the army with tear gas and water cannon.

Some retaliated with stones and attacked a concrete barrier that had been set up to block roads leading to Parliament.

The Lebanese Red Cross reported that 373 people were injured in downtown Beirut.

The turnout for the confidence vote was “very poor”, said Sami Nader, director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs. “Confidence votes usually exceed 90 or 100 votes,” Mr Nader told The National.

A confidence vote can be passed with only half of the MPs present.

“If those who voted against did not attend, Parliament would not have established quorum today. Game-changing," Lebanese journalist Kareem Chehayeb said on Twitter.

Those who voted against the government included former prime minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement bloc and the Progressive Socialist Party’s Democratic Gathering.

Protesters reject the new government because they believe it is affiliated with the political establishment they say caused the country’s economic crisis.

But Prime Minister Hassan Diab claims it is a government of independent ministers. Mr Hariri’s government fell on October 29 because of the protests.

After the vote, Mr Diab said that his government was “non-politicised” even though some ministers had “political inclinations”.

“No one can challenge the legitimacy of the MPs elected by large segments of the Lebanese people," he said.

"No one can challenge the legitimacy of the uprising, which represents a large segment of the Lebanese people, too.

"Here is the complex equation: how can a combination of both be found?”

Lebanon is going through its worst economic crisis in living memory, with severe liquidity shortages and rising unemployment.

“We have to be honest and admit that the risk of falling is not an illusion,” Mr Diab said.

“We want to preserve public money, foreign currency assets and depositors’ money, especially in the central bank, to serve the priorities of the people in terms of food, medicine, medical materials, wheat and fuel.”

Meanwhile, two men were killed in a shootout at a police station in a southern Beirut suburb on Tuesday.

Updated: February 13, 2020 08:53 AM

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