BEIRUT – Thousands of protesters demonstrated in central Beirut on Sunday against the country’s new prime minister, saying he should abandon the post because he is a member of the ruling elite.
After sunset, protesters closed several roads and highways in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon to rally against the nomination of Hassan Diab, who was backed by the militant Hezbollah group and its allies and failed to win the backing of the main Sunni Muslim groups.
The protesters, many of whom came from northern Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley, also gathered in Beirut’s central Martyrs Square, one of the key places of the protests, which have been underway for more than two months.
They later marched toward the parliament building guarded by scores of riot police. Unlike last week, when scuffles were reported between protesters and policemen outside the parliament, there was no violence on Sunday.
Prime Minister-designate Diab, a university professor and former education minister, will have the task of steering Lebanon out of its worst economic and financial crisis in decades. He’s also taking office against the backdrop of ongoing nationwide protests against the country’s ruling elite that the protesters blame for widespread corruption and mismanagement.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the head of the largest Sunni group in Lebanon, resigned on Oct. 29, meeting a key demand of the protesters. According to Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the prime minister has to be a Sunni.
“We are not convinced by their choice,” protester Hanaa Saleh said about Diab’s nomination. “We don’t believe this movie.”
Diab has vowed his government will not include politicians and will only consist of independents and experts.
In Washington, a State Department spokesperson said that U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale had encouraged Lebanese leaders during his two-day visit last week “to put aside partisan interests and support formation of a government committed to and capable of undertaking meaningful, sustained reforms.”
Hale “reaffirmed America’s longstanding partnership and enduring commitment to a secure, stable and prosperous Lebanon,” said Morgan Ortagus.