Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigns on the thirteenth day of protests

This decision does not imply early elections. The President of the Republic can appoint another Sunni personality to form a new government.

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Saad Hariri at the announcement of his resignation, October 29, 2019 in Beirut.
Saad Hariri at the announcement of his resignation, October 29, 2019 in Beirut. – / AFP

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Tuesday (October 29th) that he was going to resign his government, at the 13the day of a popular uprising marked by new clashes in the streets of Beirut.

His intervention was greeted by the cheers of the crowd who listened to live in several places of assembly, before the national anthem echoed – An-nasid al-wataniyy al-lubnani – taken over by the protesters. Fireworks were immediately fired in Beirut as cars cruised the city screaming horns as a sign of victory.

Hariri, 49, said he will go to the Baabda presidential palace to present the resignation "Faced with the will of many Lebanese who took to the streets to demand change". In his very short televised address, he called "All Lebanese to favor the interest of Lebanon (…) to protect civil peace and to prevent any deterioration of the economic situation ".

No automatic early elections

The resignation of the government does not imply early elections: according to the Lebanese Constitution, if the President of the Republic accepts the departure of Saad Hariri, he can appoint another Sunni personality, in turn responsible for forming a government.

The participants in the popular uprising are calling for a change of political class through the appointment of a transitional government, made up of technocrats, and the announcement of early elections. Protesters are also in favor of an in-depth change in the Lebanese political system, including the end of denominational sharing as it currently exists.

After this announcement, the French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, felt that this resignation "Aggravates the crisis", before clarifying the two convictions of France: "Do everything possible to guarantee the stability of the institutions and the unity of Lebanon (…) and listen to the voice of the people. "

A protester celebrates Saad Hariri's announcement in Sidon on 29 October.
A protester celebrates Saad Hariri's announcement in Sidon on 29 October. ALI HASHISHO / REUTERS

WhatsApp Tax

Just before his speech, clashes erupted in Beirut where dozens of attackers destroyed the tents erected by the demonstrators, taking chairs for projectiles and attacking with sticks those who had not fled their approach.

The protesters had succeeded Sunday an unprecedented demonstration of strength and unity by forming a human chain from north to south of the country, 170 km long. The press saw in it the symbol of unprecedented mobilization, by its magnitude and its harmony, in the history of Lebanon.

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Popular anger exploded on October 17th after the announcement of a new tax on calls with WhatsApp messaging. The rapid cancellation of the measure did not prevent the revolt from reaching the whole country, from Tripoli in the north to Tire in the south. This new tax has been canceled, but anger has not subsided, the crowd demanding a resignation from a government deemed incompetent and corrupt. During the whole uprising, the demonstrators favored the same slogans: "Revolution, revolution! ", "All, that means all! ", and "The people want the fall of the regime! ".

The current government is the third headed by Mr. Hariri to fall, since his accession to power in 2009. Long supported by Saudi Arabia, he is the son of billionaire and former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, assassinated in 2005.

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