“The protests were triggered by a tax on WhatsApp voice calls that the government quickly ditched. But the government could not contain the anger of a population that is sick and tired of economic stagnation, endemic corruption and a lack of basic public services.” The new Lebanese government was formed less than a year ago in January 2019. The new government was formed on the basis of “urgant economic and political reform”. The prime minister or Lebanon was elected this past May for his third term. Hariri said in the past that ”I extend my hand to all political entities in the country to achieve what the Lebanese are looking for”. It is safe to say that the last year the government hasn’t been able to do what it promised to its people as government, as there have been protests sparked in October of the same year. The problems that caused these protests are problems that the government promised to fix and reform, so theactions of the protestors are no surprise.
The protests were actually happening because of people’s distress of the current economic environment in Lebanon, but as of recently they have turned into protests for a new government. The spark of these protests was the government putting a tax on voice calls on the very popular app WhatsApp. WhatsApp is commonly used in the eastern hemisphere to communicate with people using a free platform, and in this case it was the breaking point for the Lebanese people. This happened because of the protests expanding and getting exposure. As with all protests, media is key to gaining success. The lebanese protests have gotten media attention mainly because of the volume of protesters and the unity these protests have gotten the ability to do. One protests stated, “I’m from a specific sect. My friend is from a specific sect. But we’re all here together for our futures and our children’s futures. We don’t want to live the way our parents lived.” There is unity among these protests which is rare as people are looking past their politicaland ideological beliefs. The advancement of their “daily life” is being hurt. The currentgovernment position is “savaging people’s wallets, jeopardizing supplies of gas and bread and deepen the chronic dysfunction of daily life”. The most important aspect in Lebanon is that the quality of people’s daily lives is being hurt. This mobilizes more people to join the protests even if their interest isn’t centered in the politics of the country, but their interests are in their children and livelihood.
What is at stake?
“But the country is standing at a political crossroads, activists and analysts say. Prominent figures in the protests say the political elite have two options: continue to preside over further chaos and face imminent economic (and even state) collapse, or undergo a peaceful transition from sectarian leadership to civil governance to rescue the country”. Lebanon could go even further into despair at this point, or can transition to a new government. If the problems continue to persist and get worse, Lebanon could be at a point where it was in 2005 during the “Cedar Revolution”, as we see today the the prominence of peaceful protests are beginning to pop up in bigger volume across the country. Today, some people are blaming the way the Lebanese government is set up for leading the country into the problems it is having. Lebanon has a parliamentary democracy with a twist. Unlike other parliamentary systems, their government is more religiously centered. One protestercenters the problems around “Lebanon’s confessional political system left by French colonial rule as the root of the country’s problem. Based on the demography of the early 20th century, it assures the president will be a Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim”. This is a systemic issue because since the formation of this government, it “thwarts the power of the electorate by dividing government and civil service positions along sectarian lines to balance representation of the major faiths and minorities”. These systematic issues have been the same since the last revolution, so now people have taken the streets to protests and have decided that the reform will have to happen based on their activism. They believe the government is no longer capable of producing this reform because they can’t even control the infrastructure of the country very adequately. Lebanon has struggled to maintain electricity and running water in some parts, all while having economic debt in the highest percentage in the world. The revolution must persist, but many people are still reluctant to participate as they have seen violence erupt in the past and do not want to put themselves in danger. So far, the protests have progressed into a revolution and it hasn’t been violent, but that can change at any moment. The revolution will either lead to violence or the dissemince of the current Lebanese government that the people have long had unrest with.