News World Thousands in competing protests in Lebanon

Thousands in competing protests in Lebanon

Protests against Lebanon's political regime and counter-protests supporting the government have been filling the streets of Beirut. Photo: Getty
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Competing rallies have been held in Lebanon, with thousands flocking to the presidential palace in support of the president, and others gathering in Beirut aiming to sweep the country’s political elite from power,

The anti-government movement has united Lebanese from various religious sects, who are calling for the overthrow of the political system that has dominated the country since its 1975-1990 civil war.

Under that system, Lebanon’s president has to be a Maronite Christian, the parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim and the prime minister a Sunni. Cabinet and parliament seats are equally split between Muslims and Christians.

The agreement distributed power among Christians, Shiites and Sunnis, but led to decades of corruption and economic mismanagement culminating in a severe fiscal crisis.

President Michel Aoun addressed thousands of his supporters on Sunday (local time) saying that more would be done to fight deeply rooted political corruption.

Hours later, tens of thousands of protesters called for the government to speed up the political transition following Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation last week.

They also called for a general strike on Monday to pressure political leaders.

They were the largest protests in Beirut since Tuesday when scores of Hezbollah supporters ransacked an anti-government sit-in, injuring some of the demonstrators.

Mr Aoun called on his supporters to work with the anti-government protesters to end corruption and create a non-sectarian state, in remarks carried live on screens at the rally.

“The people have revolted because their rights are missing,” Mr Aoun said. “The people have lost confidence in the state and this is the big problem. We should restore the state’s confidence.”