Beirut, Lebanon – Prime Minister Saad Hariri scheduled a three-day ultimatum for his coalition partners on Friday to solve the severe economic crisis in Lebanon when tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators gathered for a second day across the country.
The protests that broke out on Thursday over plans for new taxes are the most serious challenge facing Hariri's coalition government, which came to power less than a year ago.
"I set a very short deadline," said Hariri. "Either our partners in the coalition government give a clear answer or I will have something else to say."
As he spoke, the Lebanese flagged demonstrators on the martyrs' square in Beirut continued to demand the resignation of the country's political elite, including Hariri, President Michel Aoun, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
Protesters angry at the government's plans to raise new taxes in the face of rising living costs sang "Revolution! Revolution!" and "The people demand the overthrow of the regime". They also accused the Lebanese leadership of corruption and called for the repeal of the country's strict banking secrecy and the return of state funds stolen for decades to the state treasury.
"Thief, thief, Michel Aoun is a thief," some of them sang, looking around nervously with a grin on their face. In Lebanon, insulting the president can get you to jail.
"Everyone is tired, the situation is terrible, people have no money, people are falling apart and all they give us is taxes, taxes, taxes," said Samir Shmaysri, a 39-year-old barber.
"There is no reform process that could be hoped for."
Also in the eastern Bekaa Valley and in Tripoli, the second largest Lebanese city, protesters took to the streets According to local media, several demonstrators were injured when lawmakers' bodyguards opened fire on a crowd.
The demonstration began after the financially weak government announced plans to raise new taxes, including WhatsApp voice calls. On Friday night, protesters blocked roads across the country with burning tires and set fire to buildings and destroyed shops in some areas.
In the midst of the riots, banks, shops and schools closed down on Friday.
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