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.
x
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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Head: Breach Won't Happen Again

Julia Pierson tells a House panel investigating a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid