Episode
October 24, 2019

Can Lebanon's protesters win concrete change?

Demonstrators tired of high prices, unemployment and poor services challenge long-established system dominated by political dynasties.
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On Thursday, October 24 at 19:30 GMT:
Lebanon is in the grip of the largest popular protests seen there since 2015, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets to urge the resignation of the government.

Demonstrators from across the sectarian and political spectrum led a general strike on Monday, days after people started protesting on October 17. The rallies were sparked by the Lebanese government’s announcement of a planned daily tax on the use of WhatsApp, Skype and other voice-over-internet services. For many Lebanese struggling to makes end meet, it was the final straw. While the government quickly dropped the tax, the protests have mushroomed into a wider call for wholesale changes to Lebanon’s sectarian system of government, one dominated by long-standing political dynasties that many people accuse of unchecked corruption.

Amid protests in major cities including Beirut, Tripoli and Tyre, Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri announced on Monday that the cabinet had approved a string of reforms. Salaries of senior politicians will be cut in half, an anti-corruption body will be established, and no new taxes will be created in the 2020 budget – a major change to the 2019 budget which contained several levies that drained the wallets of millions of Lebanese struggling to get by.

But for the protesters, the cabinet-approved reforms are not enough and they are continuing to call for the government’s resignation and for fresh elections to be held. But in a highly constrained political system that reserves offices by sect, is real political change for the benefit of ordinary people even possible? Join the conversation on Thursday.

 

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

 

Nizar Hassan, @Nizhsn and @lebpoliticspod
Political organiser and co-host of “The Lebanese Politics Podcast”

 

Reem Rifaii
Protester and activist

 

Stefanie Dekker, @StefanieDekker
Correspondent at Al Jazeera English
aljazeera.com

 

Timour Azhari, @timourazhari
Journalist at The Daily Star
dailystar.com.lb

 

Read more:

'The people are one': Lebanese unite against political elite – Al Jazeera
Years after Taif, Lebanese call for end to sectarian politics – Al Jazeera

What do you think? Record a video comment or leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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