Geagea Announces LF's Resignation from Government
The Lebanese Forces quit Lebanon's coalition government Saturday as tens of thousands of people took to the streets for a third day of protests against tax increases and official corruption.
After protesters marched in Beirut, Tripoli and other cities across Lebanon, LF leader Samir Geagea said his party's four ministers were resigning from the government.
"We are now convinced that the government is unable to take the necessary steps to save the situation," said Geagea. "Therefore, the bloc decided to ask its ministers to resign from the government."
The protesters took to the streets despite calls for calm from politicians and dozens of arrests on Friday. Many waved billowing Lebanese flags and insisted the protests should remain peaceful and non-sectarian.
The demonstrators are demanding a sweeping overhaul of Lebanon's political system, citing grievances ranging from austerity measures to poor infrastructure.
They have blocked main roads and threatened to topple the country's fragile coalition government.
Most Lebanese politicians have uncharacteristically admitted the demonstrations are spontaneous, rather than blaming outside influences.
Demonstrators in Beirut and other areas celebrated the news of the LF's resignation, calling on other blocs to leave the government. In Tripoli, they let off fireworks.
"I am thinking maybe it's better all the government resign," said one protester, 24-year-old Ali. "I am thinking maybe it's better to go to another election as people already woke up."
Saturday evening, thousands were packed for a third straight night into the Riad al-Solh Square in central Beirut, despite security forces having used tear gas and water cannons to disperse similar crowds a day before.
The demonstrations first erupted on Thursday, sparked by a proposed 20 US-cent tax on calls via messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
Such calls are the main method of communication for many Lebanese and, despite the government's swift abandonment of the tax, the demonstrations quickly swelled into the largest in years.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri has given his deeply divided coalition until Monday evening to give back a reform package aimed at shoring up the government's finances and securing desperately needed economic assistance from donors.
He held a series of meetings Saturday regarding the situation, NNA said.
The promised austerity moves are essential if Lebanon is to unlock $11 billion in economic assistance pledged by international donors last year.
Growth has plummeted in recent years, with political deadlock compounded by the impact of eight years of war in neighbouring Syria.
Lebanon's public debt stands at around $86 billion -- more than 150 percent of gross domestic product -- according to the finance ministry.