Published: Tue, October 22, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Lebanese PM gives government 3 days to back reforms

Lebanese PM gives government 3 days to back reforms

The latest unrest erupted out of anger over the rising cost of living and new tax plans, including a fee on WhatsApp calls.

The protesters were demanding a radical overhaul of Lebanon's political system, complaining against austerity measures.

Hariri said he understood the people's "pain" and anger at his government's performance and said "we are running out of time". "Whatever the solution, we no longer have time and I am personally giving myself only a little time".

He gave them a 72-hour deadline to do so, without directly threatening to resign.

Hezbollah and its allies, primarily the Free Patriotic Movement led by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, want to preserve the government, warning that the alternative would only lead to chaos.

The prime minister is expected to deliver a speech on the crisis later on Friday.

The number of protesters grew steadily throughout the day, with major demonstrations in second city Tripoli, in the north, and other locations. "Enough, we are exhausted", said Ramzi, a 26-year-old protester who said he had travelled from Belgium for the protest.

A picture taken through a damaged shop widow shows Lebanese demonstrators waving a national flag as they take part in a protest in the capital Beirut's the downtown district on October 19, 2019.

What Happened: Thousands of people demanding the government's resignation and a sweeping overhaul of Lebanon's political system took to the streets of Beirut, Tripoli and other cities on October 19 for the third day of nationwide protests, Al Jazeera and other news sources reported.

Around 70 people were arrested on Friday night alone, a security source from the Internal Security Forces told CNN. No political leader, Muslim or Christian, was spared their wrath.

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Blanchet said separatism wasn't a priority for his party, nor was a referendum on the matter imminent. He urged his supporters for just a few more hours of hard work to get out the vote.

"We have reached the conclusion that this government is powerless to take the steps needed to save the country from worsening financial and economic conditions", Geagea said in a televised address.

Some protesters fainted as security forces fired tear gas. Access to Beirut's worldwide airport was cut off. Shops, banks and schools were closed.

Observers doubt that the planned road map would ease tension on the streets given the magnitude of the demonstrations that have spread to regions known for their loyalty to political leaders such as the parliamentary speaker, Nabih Berri, and Hezbollah's chief Hasan Nasrallah.

The nation came to a standstill amid the large-scale protests, which have brought people from across the sectarian and religious lines that define the country.

Many said they would remain on the streets until his government resigned.

Throngs of people converged near the government headquarters in downtown Beirut in one of the largest such demonstrations in years, calling on politicians now debating a proposed austerity budget to step down and hold early elections.

Lebanon suffers from constant electricity shortages and poor internet.

Citizens continued their demonstrations in different areas while vowing to stay in the streets until they get their rights. "I don't want to hear any more generators", said Dima Abu Hassan, 42.

It is expected to announce a series of new taxes as part of next year's budget, now being drawn up by ministers.

Growth has plummeted in recent years, with political deadlock compounded by the impact of eight years of war in neighboring Syria.

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