Understanding the Protests in Lebanon

On October 17th, people in Lebanon took to the streets protesting years of governmental corruption and economic stagnation. The authority’s suggestion to impose monthly taxation on WhatsApp messages was the final straw for the Lebanese people.

The underlying reasons, however, have been building up for decades.

Economic reforms

The youth unemployment rate in Lebanon is around 40 % — many of whom are graduates. While the cost of living continues to increase, wages remain stagnant. Households regularly witness power outages and water shortages.

Protestors have reported feeling alienated from the political elite.

Lebanon’s president Saad Hariri announced a series of economic reforms merely days after the protests begun. These ended up highlighting the real will of the people — to overthrow the government and reform the sectarian political system.

Change in demographics

Sectarian division of the Lebanese government has repeatedly been enforced: from the modernization of the Ottoman government to the latest Taif Agreement in 1988. The rules of division failed to take into consideration how the demographics might change, resulting at times in an uneven division.

Demonstrations are not a new phenomenon in Lebanon. However, because of the protestors’ united front, the recent demonstrations are considered unique. Most striking are the thousands of Lebanese flags that are being waved by people regardless of political or religious affiliation.

Further steps

While some ministers have resigned following the protests, others, such as the popular Hezbollah party have shown a different attitude — its leader has warned of civil war in Lebanon if protests continue.

As protests now are continuing into thirteenth consecutive day, it remains uncertain whether the demands of governmental reform will produce any significant change for the future. Following Hariri’s latest announcement of resignation, there still exists no legitimate political alternatives to the ruling parties.

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