Angry protests are still spreading all over Lebanon, despite the resignation of former Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, in response to popular demands.
Lebanon is currently facing an economic crisis, and its current economic crisis is worse than the one that it faced during its civil war. It was on Friday November 1st when the head of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, and a rival to Al-Hariri, stated that a new government that meets people’s demands must be swiftly formed.
Reuters reported that currently Al-Hariri’s government is running the country as a caretaker, until choosing a new prime minister, after Lebanese president’ Michel Aoun’ finishes consulting MPs.
Unlike much of the Arab world, Lebanon is not ruled by autocrats, and a change in government rarely creates a shift in domestic policies. President Aoun recently announced that he is supporting the formation of a technocrat government that would satisfy people’s demands, as he described the sectarian system as a "sickness" and promised drastic political restructure.
Lebanon is currently facing an uncertain economic future. Lebanese banks are back to force since Friday November 1st, with a normal money movement. People worriedly rushed to the banks after they were closed for almost two weeks, as many wanted to withdraw their savings and transfer them abroad. Bank administrations, according to Reuters, have been soothing people and providing them with reassuring answers to end their worries.
The head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, Salim Sfeir, pointed out that banks are exerting tremendous efforts to counter rumours, and calm down people’s panic in order to avoid withdrawals of huge sums of money, which could seriously affect the country’s economy. Sfeir noted that banks conducted these transfers under limited conditions, such as repaying loans, education, health, family support or commercial commitments.
The central bank had previously vowed not to impose capital controls when banks re-open, step that might impede the currency inflows and investment that Lebanon is in urgent need of. In this regard, Sfeir said banks are taking various measures which would not be described as restrictions, but rather efforts exerted on behalf of the banks to accommodate all customers, providing the pressure resulting from closing for two weeks. “We are ready to adjust any measure taken, once the situation in the country is back to normal,” he told Reuters.
Sfeir added Lebanon’s economy has been suffering for long years, due to civil wars, as it witnessed a slowdown in capital flows to the country that has put its foreign currency reserves under pressure, therefore the banks are currently working on new measures to save the country’s critical situation, according to Sfeir.
According to Foreign Policy Website, angry protests first erupted in Lebanon on October 17th over new taxes imposed by the government on Whatsapp, and other messaging applications, heavily used by the Lebanese. Protesters demanded the dismissal of prime minister Saad Al-Hariri, which took place late last month. They also demanded the dismissal of other officials, including President Aoun. They have also called for direct popular election of the president, who is currently selected by parliament.
Among the demonstrators other demands included early parliamentary elections, with a new electoral law for elections that are not based on sectarian proportionality. They also demanded an independent investigation into stolen and misappropriated public funds.