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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid