Protests in Lebanon are entering their third week and demonstrators are calling for an all-out strike to add pressure on the politicians.
Protesters have continued to fill the streets of the Lebanese capital city, Beirut, as well as other cities and towns across the country to show that they are eager to persevere with their demands and to reinforce the will for political, social and economic change in Lebanon.
Following the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, demonstrators are keeping the momentum of the protests going, as they call for the acceleration of a political transition. The call for a general strike would bring the country to an economic standstill. It is aimed at pushing the authorities to act quickly and respond to the demands of the protesters.
The country has already experienced a series of disruptions including the blocking of roads and closure of schools and banks as a result of the demonstrations. These initiatives have thus far been successful in forcing a response by the political authorities to enact changes. Aside from the resignation of the al-Hariri, President Michel Aoun has called for reforms, including a transition from the confessional to a civil government, which may threaten the status quo power helped by leaders of the various sects in the country represented in the Parliament.
The last weekend saw a number of counter-protests initiated by government supporters, including supporters of Michel Aoun, as well as members of Hezbollah and the Amal party. Nevertheless, the counter-protests were outnumbered by those opposing the government.
The anti-establishment protests in Lebanon have been marked by their cross-sectarian nature, and have involved groups who have often felt marginalised by the political process, including women, who have been at the forefront of the protests.
The citizens of Lebanon have been feeling the strain of the deterioration of economic conditions in the country for the past few years. Unemployment levels have been steadily rising, people’s purchasing power has been decreasing, and the strength of the Lebanese lira in relation to the US dollar has been falling. These economic factors as well as the structural barriers to political reform represented by the confessional political system have stifled Lebanese society, which has responded with these protests.