Politics & Economics

What's Next for Lebanon After Hariri Resignation?

Middle East

Despite yesterday's resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, protesters in Lebanon say that they will continue their demonstrations until the political elites are removed from power.

The Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri announced his resignation on Tuesday evening, amidst jubilation and happiness on the streets of the capital Beirut at his ouster.

The resignation of Hariri, who came to power in 2016 and has been a prominent figure in Lebanese politics, comes after 13 days of public protests that have swept through Beirut and other towns and cities in the country.

Protesters have taken to the streets against economic hardship and the political elite, which many perceive to be corrupt and serving their own interests.

A proposed tax on a number of goods, including a $0.20 tax on WhatsApp and other messaging apps, have been considered as the major sparks that have surfaced longstanding tensions and sentiments of disillusionment with the current government.

In his resignation speech, Hariri said that he handed in his resignation following “the will of many Lebanese people”, adding that “no one is bigger than the country”.

For years, Lebanon has been mired in political and economic instability, owing in part to economic mismanagement, a flawed political system organised along religious lines, and the resultant impact of regional wars, most notably the Syrian Conflict. More than a quarter of Lebanon’s population is made up of refugees from neighbouring Syria.

On Monday, Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said that a solution was urgently needed to avoid an economic collapse.

Despite this and widespread approval to Hariri’s resignation, protesters have stated their desire to continue their demonstrations until other political figures, including President Michel Aoun and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, are removed from power.

“The resignation of Hariri is the first step to start to build a national democratic state,” said one protester. “The first success in this public uprising has been achieved and we now want to start to plan the next success.”

Shortly before Hariri’s announcement, hundreds of masked men destroyed protest camps and attacked protesters in central Beirut before retreating after security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Those carrying out the act have been linked to Hezbollah and Amal Party.

While it remains uncertain what direction the protest movement will take, the resolve of protests appears to have grown stronger with the resignation of Hariri.

“We are still demanding that all of them are removed,” said another protester. “All of them means all of them”.