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Aoun says coming days will bring positive developments


Lebanese protesters shout slogans as they march in Beirut on Sunday. Agence France-Presse

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said that the coming days will bring “positive developments,” Lebanese broadcaster Al Manara reported on Tuesday.

Lebanon has been in political deadlock since Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri resigned on Oct.29 and the country needs to form a new government to enact urgent reforms.

The Lebanese army says protesters have hurled stones at soldiers opening a highway south of Beirut, injuring several troops.

The army said in a statement on Tuesday that one of the protesters in the town of Naameh fired bullets from a pistol the night before. It says that made the troops fire in the air to disperse the protesters.

Across Lebanon, protesters have been holding demonstrations since Oct.17, demanding an end to widespread corruption and mismanagement by the political class that has ruled the country for three decades.

Protesters have resorted to road closures and other tactics to pressure politicians into responding to their demands for a new government after Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned more than a month ago, meeting a key demand of the demonstrators.

A secular state, early elections, solving poverty. Every evening, Sarah Al Ghur joins other residents of Lebanon’s second city Tripoli to debate how to fix her protest-gripped country.

“I’d rather take part in the discussions than applaud or shout out slogans,” says the 32-year-old in the city’s Al Nour square.

After years of disillusionment and apathy, a free falling economy and anti-government protests have spurred Lebanese back into political debate.

Across the Mediterranean country, squares where protesters have denounced mismanagement and corruption have also become centres of spontaneous discussion.

In Tripoli, Ghur walks between debate tents, stopping outside one where dozens of people are discussing a “roadmap for the revolution.”

Men and women of all ages sit on the floor, huddle on benches, or stand arms crossed, listening to the latest speaker.

Nearby, protesters revel to the sound of patriotic tunes and techno beats. “I’ve discovered laws I knew nothing about,” says Ghur, her hair trimmed short and wearing a dress.

“Now I’m more aware of my rights and my duties,” she says, in an impoverished city that has emerged at the forefront of the protests.

A young protester takes the microphone to say he thinks the “popular revolution” must evolve towards “political dialogue.”

He calls for “early parliamentary elections,” as a first step towards an overhaul of the political system.

Every evening from 5 pm to 9 pm, Tripoli residents gather under the tents to rebuild their country one idea at a time.

University professors, activists or even economists are often in attendance.

They talk of secularism and sectarianism, in a country whose legacy from a devastating 1975-91 civil war is a political system that seeks to maintain a fragile balance of power between the myriad of religious communities.

They discuss poverty, in a country where around a third of the population are poor, and the World Bank warns that proportion could soon rise to half.

But they also discuss what they view as the questionable independence of the judiciary, alleged corruption, plummeting public funds, and sometimes urban planning.

In Tripoli, half of all residents already live at or below the poverty line.

Some six weeks into the protest movement, demonstrators in the northern city have continued to gather on a daily basis, even as numbers dwindle in other parts of Lebanon.

The government resigned on Oct.29, but no concrete measures have been taken to form a new cabinet since.

Philosophy professor Hala Amoun says that, before the protests, most Lebanese had long given up on any political activity.

“They’d lost all trust in the political class,” she said in classical Arabic.

Lebanese have long complained of endless power cuts, gaping inequality, unemployment, and alleged official graft.


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