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Protests over taxes sweep Lebanon for a second day

Beirut (QNN)- Thousands of protesters across Lebanon blocked roads with burning tires on Friday and marched in Beirut for a second day in demonstrations targeting the government over taxes and an economic crisis.

The protests began with a few dozen people gathering in central Beirut over the imposition of a daily fee of 20 US cents (29 cents) on messaging applications, including WhatsApp, however the numbers of protesters multiplied shortly later on.

Earlier in Lebanon’s biggest protest in years, thousands of people gathered outside the government headquarters in central Beirut on Thursday evening, forcing the cabinet to backtrack on plans to raise a new tax on WhatsApp voice calls. Tear gas was fired as some demonstrators and police clashed in the early hours.

The intensity of the protests brought into question whether the government appointed less than a year ago, would survive.

The unrest led Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to cancel a cabinet meeting due on Friday to discuss the 2020 draft budget. Lebanese media has said he would instead make a speech on the protests.

The protests come amid a worsening economic and financial crisis in Lebanon that many blame on the small number of sectarian politicians who have ruled the country since its 15-year civil war came to an end in 1990.

The Government is proposing taxes on some social media telecommunications software as well as tobacco and petrol under its 2020 budget.

They also come just two days after the worst forest fires in more than 10 years, causing outrage among citizens who blamed the government’s shortcomings for the scale of the damage.

The protesters chanted: “Revolution!” and “Thieves!” — the latter a reference to widespread corruption in a country that has one of the highest debt loads in the world. They also called for the downfall of the regime.

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