Beirut: Thousands of protesters demonstrated in central Beirut Sunday against the country’s new prime minister saying he should abandon the post because he is a member of the ruling elite.
After sunset, protesters closed several roads and highways in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon to protest the nomination of Hassan Diab, who was backed by the militant Hezbollah group and its allies and failed to win the backing of the main Sunni Muslim groups.
The protesters, that included many who came from north Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley, also gathered in Beirut central Martyrs square, one of the centers of protests that have been ongoing for more than two months.
They later marched toward the parliament building that was guarded by scores of riot policemen. There was no friction between the protesters and policemen guarding the parliament that witnessed violent scuffles last week despite some tension.
Prime Minister designate Diab, a university professor and former education minister, will have to steer Lebanon out of its worst economic and financial crisis in decades. He’s also taking office against the backdrop of ongoing nationwide protests against the country’s ruling elite that the protesters blame for widespread corruption and mismanagement.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the head of the largest Sunni group in Lebanon, resigned on Oct. 29, meeting a key demand of the protesters. According to Lebanon’s power sharing system, the prime minister is always a Sunni.
“We are not convinced by their choice,” said protester Hanaa Saleh about the nomination of Diab.
“You cannot choose the person who will judge you. This means he is coming to cover your corruption.”
“We don’t believe this movie,” she said about the nomination.
Diab has vowed that his government will not include politicians and will only consist of independents and experts.
In Washington, a State Department Spokesperson said U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale encouraged Lebanese leaders during his two-day visit to Lebanon “to put aside partisan interests and support formation of a government committed to and capable of undertaking meaningful, sustained reforms.”
Hale “reaffirmed America’s longstanding partnership and enduring commitment to a secure, stable, and prosperous Lebanon,” said spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.