Anti-government protests in Lebanon

#Protests erupted in #Lebanon on 17 October 2019 after the government announced taxation on WhatsApp calls and other messenger services. However, this was only the final spark that set alight a tinderbox that had been simmering. High unemployment rates (youth unemployment at 35%), electricity shortages, poor infrastructure, garbage piles on streets, limited access to drinking water, and inability to control wildfires caused widespread distrust against Lebanon’s corrupt government. The country is experiencing the worst economic crisis since the 1975 civil war, being the third most indebted country worldwide, with half of its population living in poverty. Despite the sectarian nature of the government, the protests united members of all confessional groups to demand an improvement of living conditions, resignation of all political representatives, and an end to corruption. Pressured by the large-scale demonstrations, prime minister Saad Hariri set a deadline of 72 hours for his political partners to agree to his reform programme that included 50% wage cuts for ministers and MPs. These reforms, however, did not appease the protestors who wanted to see change on a larger scale. The cabinet eventually resigned and a new one was appointed in January 2020. Nonetheless, the notable political figures stayed in power. The coronavirus lockdown put the protests on hold, but not for long. Beirut was rocked by a huge explosion on 4 August 2020, caused by official negligence, leading to a resurgence of anti-government protests. The catastrophe that killed over 200 people and left approximately 300,000 homeless demonstrated the need for new leadership. A week after the blast the 7-month-old government led by Hassan Diab resigned. World leaders, especially the French, have highlighted the need for political stability but talks on the formation of a new cabinet have repeatedly failed. Lebanon is in desperate need of a new government to implement reforms and receive access to foreign aid. With the value of the Lebanese pound nosediving and consumer prices inflating the population is paying the price of government failure and a political deadlock.

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