Thousands protest against new Hezbollah-backed PM in Lebanon
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Thousands protest against new Hezbollah-backed PM in Lebanon

Anti-corruption demonstrators close roads and highways, call for Hassan Diab to resign, as country faces its worst economic crisis in decades

Protesters chant slogans during ongoing protests against the Lebanese political class, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, December 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Protesters chant slogans during ongoing protests against the Lebanese political class, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, December 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Thousands of protesters demonstrated in central Beirut and elsewhere in Lebanon on Sunday against the country’s new prime minister, saying he should abandon the post because he is a member of the ruling elite.

After sunset, protesters closed several roads and highways in Beirut and other parts of the country to rally against the nomination of Hassan Diab, who was backed by the Hezbollah terror group and its allies and failed to win the backing of the main Sunni Muslim groups.

The protesters, many of whom came from northern Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley, also gathered in Beirut’s central Martyrs Square, one of the key places of the protests, which have been underway for more than two months.

They later marched toward the parliament building guarded by scores of riot police. Unlike last week, when scuffles were reported between protesters and policemen outside the parliament, there was no violence on Sunday.

Protesters take pictures with their mobile phones of a defaced poster of newly-nominated Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab and a list of what the protesters call the premier’s achievements when he was minister of higher education, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, December 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Prime Minister-designate Diab, a university professor and former education minister, will have the task of steering Lebanon out of its worst economic and financial crisis in decades. He is also taking office against the backdrop of ongoing nationwide protests against the country’s ruling elite that the protesters blame for widespread corruption and mismanagement.

Former prime minister Saad Hariri, the head of the largest Sunni group in Lebanon, resigned on October 29, meeting a key demand of the protesters. According to Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the prime minister has to be a Sunni.

“We are not convinced by their choice,” protester Hanaa Saleh said about Diab’s nomination. “We don’t believe this movie.”

Diab has vowed that his government will not include politicians and will only consist of independents and experts.

Protesters chant slogans during ongoing protests against the Lebanese political class, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, December 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

In Washington, a State Department spokesperson said that US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale had encouraged Lebanese leaders during his two-day visit last week “to put aside partisan interests and support formation of a government committed to and capable of undertaking meaningful, sustained reforms.”

Hale “reaffirmed America’s longstanding partnership and enduring commitment to a secure, stable, and prosperous Lebanon,” said Morgan Ortagus.

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