Men, women and children yesterday gathered in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, to protest corruption and tax hikes for a fourth day, after the resignation of a key Christian party rocked the country’s fragile coalition government.
Demonstrations had flared on Thursday in response to a proposed US$0.20 tax on calls via WhatsApp and other messaging services.
While the government quickly dropped the plans, the protests morphed into demands for a sweeping overhaul of Lebanon’s political system, with grievances ranging from austerity measures to poor infrastructure.
Thousands rallied across the country on Saturday, chanting “revolution” or “the people demand the fall of the regime” — a common refrain of demonstrations in other parts of the Arab world.
The protests have been largely good-natured, with people singing or launching into traditional dabke dances on Saturday, while others played cards and smoked shisha into the early hours.
In Tripoli, Lebanon’s traditionally conservative second city, the protests at points looked like a music festival, with a DJ pumping out dance music from loudspeakers.
Yesterday morning, volunteers were cleaning the streets near the parliament in Beirut, while rubbish collectors righted upturned dumpsters.
The protests have also been marked by their diversity, drawing wide swathes of Lebanese society largely united on what they oppose — with many condemning the entire political class as thieves and criminals — but so far lack a clear set of demands.
Lebanon’s political system was set up to balance power between the country’s religious sects, including Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and Druze.
Many senior politicians came to prominence during the country’s 15-year civil war that ended in 1990.
Beleaguered Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Sunni, had given his coalition partners until this evening to back key reforms.
However, late on Saturday, Samir Geagea, head of the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) party, announced that his ministers were quitting the government.
“We are now convinced that the government is unable to take the necessary steps to save the situation,” Geagea said.
Other members of the government, including Shiite movement Hezbollah, are opposed to resigning.
You have got to eat it, to beat it: That is the philosophy of one Hanoi chef who is attempting to boost morale in the Vietnamese capital by selling green, coronavirus-themed burgers. Laughing in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, chef Hoang Tung and his team now spend their days molding dozens of green-tea stained burger buns complete with little “crowns” made of dough to resemble microscopic images of the coronavirus. “We have this joke that if you are scared of something, you should eat it,” Tung said at the Pizza Home takeaway shop in downtown Hanoi. “That’s why the coronavirus isn’t
Australia strongly objects to the indictment of Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun (楊恆均) for espionage, who continues to be held in “unacceptable” conditions, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said yesterday. Yang, a former Chinese diplomat turned online journalist and blogger, was arrested in August last year on suspicion of espionage, seven months after he was originally detained in Guangzhou. Espionage is punishable by death in China. Australia denies that Yang has ever spied for the nation. Already strained by Australia’s decision to prohibit Chinese company Huawei Technologies from its 5G broadband network and Canberra’s allegations that Beijing is meddling in its domestic affairs,
AUSTRALIA Prankster coughs on officer A man has been charged over a “prank” in which he coughed on a police officer while pretending to be infected with COVID-19 as a friend filmed the incident, authorities said. On Tuesday, the 21-year-old entered a police station in Coffs Harbour and approached a 71-year-old female officer. “[He] deliberately coughed on the woman and claimed that he had COVID-19, while a friend filmed,” police said. The station was closed and isolation protocols enacted, but a check by authorities showed that the man was not infected. AUSTRALIA Health system threatened Officials yesterday warned that the number of COVID-19 infections could
North Macedonia on Friday officially became the 30th member of the NATO military alliance. “North Macedonia is now part of the NATO family, a family of 30 nations and almost 1 billion people. A family based on the certainty that, no matter what challenges we face, we are all stronger and safer together,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement. North Macedonia’s flag would be raised alongside those of the other 29 member countries at NATO headquarters in Brussels and two other commands simultaneously tomorrow. Given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski said that “we