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Lebanon’s PM resigns. But it probably won’t satisfy protesters.

Adam Rasmi
Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri speaks during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon October 29, 2019.

Prime minister Saad Hariri today submitted his resignation to president Michel Aoun, a key demand of the protest movement that has gripped the country in recent weeks.

The resignation comes on the 13th day of the protests, which seek an end to government corruption and severe economic inequality. The richest 0.1% in Lebanon now earn more than the bottom 50%.

The news follows an incident earlier today when supporters of the Shia political groups Amal and Hezbollah attacked Beirut’s main protest camp, setting tents ablaze. Both are part of the coalition government that was until today led by Hariri. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had encouraged Hariri not to resign.

In his televised speech announcing the resignation, Hariri said he “reached a dead end” in trying to solve the crisis. A week before he demanded a slew of reforms aimed at easing public anger, including cutting the salaries of politicians by half and instituting higher taxes on profits made by banks. While the cabinet approved the reforms, the government has taken no decisive action and the reforms have yet to be implemented.

The resignation comes amid a general period of deep economic crisis in the country. Banks have been closed for more than a week to prevent a run on US dollars. And the Central Bank governor warned yesterday of an “economic collapse” as the country’s dollar reserves—which are pegged to the Lebanese Lira—dry up.

Though crowds were seen after Hariri’s announcement celebrating in downtown Beirut, the decision is unlikely to satisfy protesters. They have called not just for the prime minister to step down, but the entire government. One of the leading chants of the demonstrations is “all of them means all of them.”

The government will now need to appoint a new prime minister. But given the number of competing factions within the national unity government, it’s unclear how quickly they’ll be able to agree on a new leader, raising the possibility that Hariri stays on in a caretaker role.

 

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