News / Middle East

Election Postponement in Lebanon Sparks Angry Protests

A protester holds up a placard during a rally against the extension of the current parliament's mandate, in Beirut, June 20, 2013.A protester holds up a placard during a rally against the extension of the current parliament's mandate, in Beirut, June 20, 2013.
A protester holds up a placard during a rally against the extension of the current parliament's mandate, in Beirut, June 20, 2013.
A protester holds up a placard during a rally against the extension of the current parliament's mandate, in Beirut, June 20, 2013.
Lebanese fear the sectarian civil war in neighboring Syria will tear their country apart. But as communal rifts widen, political leaders in Beirut have been locked in dispute over the formation of a new power-sharing government, and a 17-month postponement of scheduled elections has touched off angry protests.
Protests flared this past week in the downtown part of Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, against a decision to postpone elections and extend the mandate of the country’s parliament. This is coming at a time when spillover sectarian violence is worsening in the country because of the conflict raging across the border in Syria.
With Lebanon's Shi'ite militia, Hezbollah, and Lebanese Sunni gunmen joining opposing sides in Syria’s 27-month-old civil war, many feel the country desperately needs steady leadership.
The combination of political deadlock and intensifying sectarian strife is unnerving Lebanese who yearn for stability. Youthful protesters against the decision to put off parliamentary elections say the Lebanese should be able to vote and usher in new leaders.
Protesters like 24-year-old film student Ali say prolonging the current legislature’s mandate is illegal. Lebanon is tired of the same old faces, he says.
“I am here against the extension of the Lebanese parliament and against all the deputies in here who are stealing our money and stealing our chances and they killed our dreams. They are the same people since the Lebanese civil war, the same faces, the same people, the same killers. And as I already told you they already killed our dreams and the peace in our country.”
On Thursday, a few hundred protesters skirmished with police near the parliament. And, Friday night demonstrators maintained a sit-in in downtown Beirut, but it was less antagonistic. Their posters expressed disdain for the politicians. One read: “Politicians are like diapers, [they] need to be changed.” Another declared: “Leave! You Failed.”
Twenty-eight-year-old Natalia, a student and partner in a public interest consultancy, is disappointed with the numbers of protesters that have turned out to register their disapproval, but believes this is just a start. A major demonstration is planned for June 28. 
“The parliament just decided to extend their mandate and that is against the constitution and every principle that democracy stands for. These same people have been rulers of the country since the war ended and they were the warlords as well. They are not doing their jobs, which is serving the people.”
The lack of economic opportunities is fueling the frustration of many of the protesters. Natalia says jobs are in short supply.
“Very, very few opportunities exist here. If you even want to start a family you have to go work abroad, put some money aside and come back, and that’s what we do not want to do. And that is what they want us to do - to leave [the] country and leave it to them to do what they please.”
With clashes between Lebanese Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims taking opposing sides in the Syrian civil war mounting, along with fear that more widespread fighting could be triggered in Lebanon, the international community is expressing alarm. 
U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly issued a thinly veiled warning Friday saying the “U.S.’s primary concern is the survival of Lebanon’s democratic institutions.”

You May Like

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs