The prime minister of Lebanon has issued a 72-hour ultimatum to both his political adversaries and his colleagues to all work together to deliver reforms over his country’s serious and worsening economic crisis, triggered by the rising protests in the country calling on the government to resign.
Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, said Friday October 18th, that Lebanon is currently going through an “unprecedented, difficult time.” as he addressed the country in a speech.
Hariri gave the 72-hour deadline to the country’s political leaders to stop obstructing reforms and respond to the demands of protesters, otherwise he threatened to take “a different approach.”
The prime minister added that his efforts to enact reforms have been hindered by “others in government,” without mentioning any names.
"There are those who placed obstacles in front of me since the government was formed, and in the face of all the efforts that I have proposed for reform," Hariri said during his speech.
“Whatever the solution, we no longer have time and I am personally giving myself only a little time. Either our partners in government and in the nation give a frank response to the solution, or I will have another say.
"The deadline left is very short, it's 72 hours," he added.
The protests against the government are a serious threat to the national unity government, led by Hariri, which only took office less than a year ago. Power in Lebanon is currently shared proportionally among 18 different religious sects, and government posts and public-sector positions are also distributed among the sects.
“A real pain erupted yesterday, and people have already given us more than one chance to reform the situation,” Hariri said. “The people wanted serious work from politicians and the government, but we only presented them political battles.”
Addressing the mass protests from the presidential palace, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, President Michel Aoun's son-in-law, also blamed other parties for blocking reforms, saying the government must work to stop corruption and avoid imposing new taxes.
Bassel further stressed that protests may lead to unrest if they are not brought under control, pointing out that any alternative to the current government would be far worse.
“I have communicated with Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, President Michel Aoun, and Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, to find a solution for the current crisis,” Bassil said, according to CNN.
For the second day, nationwide protesters in Lebanon blocked roads and burned tyres, as tempers flared against Lebanon’s political elite, whom protesters accuse of looting the country’s economy and resources.
According to Reuters, angry protesters reached the outskirts of Aoun's palace in the suburbs of Baabda, demanding that the regime step down, and be held accountable for the deteriorating economy and infrastructure in Lebanon.
The main reasons for the demonstrations are the soaring inflation rate, new tax proposals and the high cost of living. Moreover, a new government plan to impose fees on WhatsApp voice calls added fuel to the fire and further angered citizens, had to be shelved by the government.
Christian politician Samir Geagea, and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, whose parties both have ministers in the coalition cabinet, also have called on the government to step down.
Lebanon has the third-highest national debt in the world, currently standing at about $86 billion, or 150% of its gross domestic product, as economic growth has been hit by regional conflict in Syria, corruption, and general political instability.