Lebanese state prosecutor has recently charged former Prime Minister Najib Mikati with corruption allegations.
Mikati, 63, along with his brother, his son and a local Lebanese bank have been accused of “illicit enrichment” over allegations of wrongly receiving millions of dollars in subsidised housing loans.
The former prime minister, who was last in power in 2014, denied the allegations. If convicted, he would be the first former Lebanese prime minister to be sentenced for graft.
While the allegations have been discussed for several years, the timing of the charges was seen by some as a nod to the demonstrators, who have expressed anger at the entire political class.
Mikati’s estimated wealth is US$2.5 billion, making him among the 1,000 richest people in the world.
At one demonstration in Beirut, Michel Khairallah, a young waiter, said people would “block the country until victory.”
For him that meant a new government “without corrupt ministers,” made up of “young and competent people” able to finally move the country forward.
“They exist, they are just waiting for their turn,” he said.
More than a quarter of Lebanon’s population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank.
The country endured a devastating civil war that ended in 1990 and many of the political leaders are those that fought, often brutally, along religious lines.
The government is set up to balance power between multiple sects, which include different Christian groups, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, as well as the Druze.
But in reality it often entrenches power and influence along sectarian lines.
Hariri presented a vast economic reform plan Monday, including 50 per cent salary cuts for ministers, but it did little to assuage the demonstrators.
The protests, which Lebanese politicians have accepted were spontaneous, do not have a specific leader or organiser.
Lebanon’s economy has been sliding closer to the abyss in recent months, with public debt soaring past 150 per cent of GDP and ratings agencies grading Lebanese sovereign bonds as “junk.”
Fears of a default have compounded the worries of Lebanese citizens exasperated by the poor quality of public services, with residents often suffering daily electricity shortages and unclean water. (Source: AFP/CNA)