Lebanon’s prime minister submitted his resignation on Tuesday, bowing to nearly two weeks of unprecedented nationwide protests against corruption and sectarianism.
Saad Hariri’s sombre televised address was met with cheers from crowds of protesters who have remained mobilised since October 17, crippling the country to press for their demands. He said his decision comes “in response to the will of many Lebanese who took to the streets to demand change”.
After Hariri’s announcement, protesters across the country erupted in applause, but it is unclear whether they will be content with the resignation. While they say Hariri’s resignation is a good first step, many others want a complete overhaul of the country’s sectarian-based governing system.
They also want to see the ouster of Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun and parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, as well as other dominant political elites in powerful positions.
The protesters have proved that they are a force to reckon with, having stayed in the streets for two straight weeks. They have also been attacked by Hezbollah and Amal supporters who do not approve of the protests and despite their threats have not backed down
The protesters also say those who have been practising corruption need to have their day in court and be held to account. They say that stopping protests now will only prolong drastic reforms and allow time for the government to drag their feet.
The Lebanese have long complained of systemic and crippling corruption in their government and protests have sporadically gripped parts of the nation in the past few years.
The inability of the government to clamp down and properly address corruption has unified the Lebanese from across various sectarian lines. Economic protests have gripped several other countries in the Middle East this year, as we have seen in Algeria, Sudan, Iraq and now Lebanon.
But in Lebanon, where there is a parliamentary system and so-called democracy, many citizens are frustrated and criticise the red tape and bureaucracy that have made the parliament unable to pass any effective legislation.
Instead, it seems all that the government has done is take away more benefits and impose more taxes on the people, already reeling from a deteriorating economy.
The protesters have proved that they are a force to reckon with, having stayed in the streets for two straight weeks. They have also been attacked by Hezbollah and Amal supporters who do not approve of the protests and despite their threats have not backed down.
This means that the government needs to go into an overdrive to implement drastic reforms to meet people’s demands.
For the first time in decades, the Lebanese are freeing themselves of the sectarian chains that have held them back for so long. The government can no longer fool the public, who, going forward, will expect nothing less than full transparency and accountability.