Lebanon’s Aoun begins talks to replace departing PM Hariri
President Michel Aoun said he was trying to organise talks to select a new prime minister, and would hold consultations when ready.
On Thursday evening, Mr Aoun was set to address the nation for the first time since Saad Hariri announced that he was resigning as prime minister this week, collapsing the government.
Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, in its first comment on
Mr Hariri’s move, criticised it as wasting time that was vital to pass anti-corruption measures and economic reforms.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah last week said that he was against any reshuffle or change in the leadership.
As the streets of Lebanon started to clear on Wednesday and the country looked set to return to normal with schools and banks reopening after two weeks of protests, thousands returned to the streets sparking clashes with the army.
A mass march was held from the Central Bank in Hamra to Riad Al Solh outside the prime minister’s office in Beirut.
People carried banners reading, “Return the stolen money”, and the crowd chanted, “We want to topple the bank, we want to topple the regime”.
Many of those who have been active throughout the demonstrations also returned, blocking the ring road that connects east and west Beirut just hours after they agreed to clear the important junction.
North of Beirut, people returned to the Jal El Dib motorway that had been cleared by the army earlier in the day on Wednesday. In Sidon and Tripoli and dozens of other areas, thousands also took to the main squares and streets to close junctions.
The army struggled to reopen roads. They used tear gas in Akkar’s Abdeh in north Lebanon to try to push people back. But on Thursday, hundreds returned to the streets of the town to block the roads.
On the ring road that connects east and west Beirut, police and the army forcefully removed protesters and about 100 riot officers remained on the scene to prevent protesters returning. In Jal El Dib, officers negotiated with protesters to clear the street.
The Lebanese American University late on Wednesday reversed an announcement just hours before that they would restart classes on Thursday,
heeding a call from the Education Ministry to reopen schools and colleges. The ministry too revised its order to reopen schools, saying it would be contingent on the local situation.
Supporters of the caretaker prime minister took to the streets in large moped convoys, honking their horns and joining in the now famous chant “kilon yani kilon” – everyone means everyone.
Up until recently, protesters almost exclusively waved Lebanese flags – political slogans, banners and posters were hardly seen.
But on Wednesday night, the white sun on a blue background of Mr Hariri’s Future Movement was flying on the streets of Beirut.
Mr Hariri urged his supporters to co-operate with security forces after thousands took to the streets, angered that he was the only politician to resign after the 14-day nationwide rallies.
The new development adds a worrying sectarian dimension to the mass rallies.
Many of Mr Hariri’s largely Sunni supporters are angered that the Christian president and Shiite speaker of Parliament are not also resigning.
Hezbollah, the largely Shiite Iran-backed paramilitary and political force, is staunchly opposed to the caretaker prime minister’s decision to stand down.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, who withdrew
Supporters of Mr Hariri took to the streets, angry he was the only politician to resign after the nationwide rallies
his four ministers from the government on the third day of the protests that began on October 17, said that the resignation of the government wasn’t the end result but the first step towards correcting the country’s course.
“The only step capable of correcting this path at the moment is to form a government completely different from its predecessors, without the problems of the existing parliamentary majority but including new, independent faces,” he said.
President Michel Aoun accepted Saad Hariri’s resignation on Wednesday