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Lebanon's Ordeal - Economic and Political Crises since Civil War

Lebanon's Ordeal - Economic and Political Crises since Civil War

Monday, 18 November, 2019 - 07:30
Protesters chant slogans and wave Lebanese flags during a demonstration at Martyrs' Square during ongoing anti-government protests in Beirut, Lebanon November 10, 2019. (Reuters)

Demonstrations against Lebanon’s ruling elite have plunged the country into political turmoil at a time of acute economic crisis, driven by deepening anger at sectarian politicians who have dominated the government since the 1975-90 civil war.


One of the most severe periods of turmoil since the end of the conflict, it stands out from previous episodes because of financial pressures that have led to a scarcity of US dollars and a weakening of the Lebanese pound.


Reuters takes a look at Lebanon’s main previous post-war upheavals:


2005

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is killed on February 14 when a massive bomb exploded as his motorcade traveled through Beirut; 21 others also died.


A combination of subsequent mass demonstrations and international pressure force Syria to withdraw troops from Lebanon. Lebanese allies of Damascus stage their own big rallies in support of Syria.


Lebanon enters a new era free of Syrian domination. Hezbollah, an Iran-backed party and close ally of Damascus, enters government for the first time.


2006

In July, Hezbollah crosses the border into Israel, kidnaps two Israeli soldiers and kills others, sparking a five-week war. At least 1,200 people in Lebanon and 158 Israelis are killed.


After the war, tensions in Lebanon simmer over Hezbollah’s arsenal. In November, Hezbollah and its allies quit the cabinet led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and organize street protests against it.


2007

Hezbollah and its allies maintain a sit-in protest against the Siniora government for the entire year. Their stated demand is veto power in the government.


In May, fighting erupts at a Palestinian camp in northern Lebanon between the Lebanese army and extremist militants of the Fatah al-Islam group. Thousands of Palestinian refugees are forced to flee the Nahr al-Bared camp. In September Lebanese troops seize complete control of the camp after more than three months of fighting which kills more than 300 people.


2008

May 6, 2008 - Siniora’s cabinet accuses Hezbollah of running a private telecoms network and installing spy cameras at Beirut airport. The cabinet vows legal action against the network.


May 7 - Hezbollah said the move against its telecoms network was a declaration of war by the government. After a brief civil conflict Hezbollah takes control of west Beirut.


May 21 - After mediation, rival leaders sign a deal in Qatar to end 18 months of political conflict. Parliament elects Michel Suleiman, the army chief, as president.


2011

In January, Saad Hariri’s first government is toppled when Hezbollah and its allies quit because of tensions over the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon.


The tribunal later indicts four senior members of Hezbollah for the murder of Rafik Hariri. Hezbollah denies any role in the assassination. Its leader Hassan Nasrallah said the authorities would not be able to find the indicted men.


A fifth Hezbollah member is indicted in 2013.


2012

Hezbollah fighters deploy into Syria, secretly at first, to aid Syrian regime forces facing an uprising against Bashar Assad. The party plays a major role beating back the rebellion.


2015

A crisis about waste erupts when the authorities closed the main landfill site near Beirut, having arranged no alternative. Large protests broke out as huge mounds of rotting waste filled streets and demonstrators chanted “You stink!” at the government. It became a glaring symbol of a sectarian power system unable to meet basic needs like electricity and water.


2019

Amid stagnant economic growth and slowing capital inflows, the government is under pressure to curb massive budget deficit.


Proposals to cut the state wage and pension bill meet stiff opposition. The government vows to enact long-delayed reforms, but fails to make progress that might unlock foreign support.


Oct. 17 - Government announces a 20 cents-per-day fee for internet calls, including Facebook and WhatsApp. It also proposes to raise VAT to 15 per cent by 2022. Thousands protest, accusing leaders of corruption and mishandling the economy.


Oct. 18 - Government abandons proposals. Protests continue.


Oct. 29 - Hariri quits, against the wishes of Hezbollah.


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