/Lebanon protests: New government ends months of deadlock

Lebanon protests: New government ends months of deadlock

Anti-government protesters in Beirut, Lebanon (19 January 2020)Image copyright

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Protesters have demanded an independent cabinet of unaffiliated technocrats

Lebanon has formed a new government, ending months of deadlock that have left the country adrift as an economic crisis deepens.

Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister in October in response to mass protests over corruption and mismanagement.

The Hezbollah movement and its allies chose university professor Hassan Diab to replace him last month, but they could not agree the cabinet’s make-up.

The matter became pressing after the protests recently took a violent turn.

More than 460 people were injured in clashes in Beirut over the weekend.

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Media captionMore than 160 people have been treated for injuries in Beirut

Protesters tried to invade the parliament building, and threw stones, traffic signs and fireworks at Internal Security Forces (ISF) officers. Several ATMs, bank offices and shops were vandalised.

ISF officers responded by firing tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets. At least four young men reportedly suffered severe and irreversible damage to their eyes after being shot at close range with rubber bullets.

Mr Hariri tweeted on Monday that Lebanon urgently needed a new government that could steer the country out of its “cycle of collapse”.

Speaking on Tuesday after President Michel Aoun signed off on the cabinet, Mr Diab called the new government “a rescue team” and said it would be “fast but not hasty in dealing with the economic situation”.

Why have people been protesting?

The demonstrations have been the largest seen in Lebanon in more than a decade.

They have cut across sectarian lines – a rare phenomenon since the devastating 1975-1990 civil war ended – and involved people from all sectors of society.

The protesters have demanded an overhaul of the political system, the formation of an independent, non-sectarian cabinet, and an end to government corruption.

They also want urgent action to resolve Lebanon’s economic crisis.

The country’s debt is equivalent to more than 150% of gross domestic product (GDP), its economy has stagnated, and its currency has lost value against the US dollar for the first time in two decades.

The country’s public infrastructure, which was already stretched before more than one million refugees arrived from neighbouring Syria, is also ailing. Electricity and water supplies are disrupted frequently and rubbish often piles up on the streets.