Following three days of protest marches and riots in Beirut, Tripoli and several other cities in Lebanon, Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian party Lebanese Forces—the Phalange militia formed in the 1976 Lebanese Civil War and collaborated with Israel during the 1982 Lebanon War—announced early Sunday that he and his party’s ministers were resigning from the Saad Hariri government.
Geagea stressed that “this government is incapable of taking the necessary steps to save the worsening economic and financial situation in Lebanon. Add to that the range of living crises we have seen in recent days and weeks. From this standpoint, the Strong Republic bloc has decided to ask its ministers to resign from the government, and to ascertain our demand to form a new government that’s substantially different from the current .”
Geagea’s announcement came after a six-hour meeting held by the Strong Republic bloc under his leadership at the Lebanese Forces party’s headquarters in Maarab, a village near the Mediterranean coast in the Mount Lebanon Governorate. The meeting included Deputy Prime Minister Ghassan Hasbani, Minister of Labor Camille Abu Suleiman, Minister of Social Affairs Richard Qayomjian, Minister of Administrative Development May Chidiac, and the bloc’s deputies.
Following the 2018 Lebanese parliamentary elections—the first since 2009—128 candidates were elected to Parliament for four years, and, according to the Lebanese Constitution, half the MPs are Christian and half Muslim, with the Christians including 34 Maronites, 14 Greek Orthodox, 8 Greek Catholics, 5 Armenian Orthodox, , 1 Armenian Catholic, 1 Protestant and 1 member representing the 12 smaller Christian minorities.
The non-Christian MPs include 27 Sunni, 27 Shia, 8 Druz, and 2 Alawites.
Demonstrators in Beirut and other areas celebrated with fireworks the news of the LF’s resignation, and called on other blocs to leave government as well. The demonstrators, who are blocking main roads around the country, are demanding a sweeping reform of Lebanon’s political system, and blaming system-wide corruption for the recent austerity measures and the country’s poor infrastructure.
In the southern port city of Tyre, Shia supporters attacked protesters on Saturday.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri has given his government until Monday evening to come back with a reform package to balance the budget, and, even more crucial than that, take the measures which are needed to secure the delivery of economic assistance from international donors. Said donors have promised a year ago, in a Paris conference, $11 billion in economic assistance to Lebanon, but only after that country shows it is prepared to cut down its debt of more than $86 billion, which currently far exceeds its entire $52 billion GDP.