Anti-government protests are expected to intensify once more in Lebanon today, days after an opposition politician was shot by a soldier dispersing a protest.
Frustrated by the dire state of the economy, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have taken to the streets across the country since October 17. Lebanon’s national debt is 155% of its GDP and, with banks opening erratically and applying restrictions on international transfers, a bank run has resulted in $3 billion in withdrawals this week.
Blaming the economic chaos on the corruption and incompetence of Lebanon’s politicians, the protesters are demanding the resignation of the entire cabinet. However, so far, only Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has conceded to the pressure and resigned. This has left Lebanese President Michel Aoun—now without Hariri’s strong Western support, which could have helped in constructing a bailout deal—desperately seeking financial support from Arab states.
The protesters’ demand for a complete overhaul of the political system lacks the specifics needed to facilitate such a large change—but without any movement towards reform, expect violent clashes among protesters and security forces. As Hezbollah is already attempting to integrate into the leaderless movement, expect it to try to fill the power vacuum.
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Saira is an analyst in the Current Developments team, where she focuses her research on the Middle East and North Africa region.