Minority leaders called for fresh elections to “get rid” of Lebanon’s ruling politicians on Wednesday — at the U.S. gave its backing to protesters who have filled the streets.
Mass demonstrations have taken place calling for the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri to be held accountable for endemic corruption, poor infrastructure, unemployment and a huge national debt representing 150% of GDP.
It has also been destabilised by a huge influx of refugees — well over one million — from neighbouring Syria.
In an attempt to tackle the country’s economic crisis, the government on October 17 issued a series of austerity measures, including a tax on Whatspp calls, that have outraged Lebanese.
As the mass protests entered their sixth consecutive day, the U.S. State Department said the Lebanese people were “rightfully angered" with their government and that it supported their right to demonstrate peacefully.
Walid Jumblatt, Lebanese politician and former minister, told Euronews he supported calls for an election but said he would continue to work from within to force change.
“For the sake of stability I will try until I decide something else I will try to push for reforms from inside,” he said.
“On the one hand, I am calling for a new government, I urge a cabinet reshuffle, taking out this government symbols of corruption. On the other hand, I accept the call of the protesters to have fresh elections because the only way to get rid of this political class is a fresh election.”
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Jumblatt is a former minister, and his Socialist Progressive Party has two ministers in the Hariri government.
He said he was against Hariri’s plan to sell public assets such as the government’s stake in airline, MEA.
“I reject selling these assets to capitalists … who will make Lebanon even poorer and leave an elite one percent holding most of the fortunes,” he said.
On Wednesday evening, protesters again waved flags and let off flares as large numbers of people lined the streets.
In an effort to restore public buildings to the people, protesters staged a film screening in Beirut's iconic 'The Egg' building, an unfinished cinema built in 1965.