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

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    Video Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora