Lebanon’s government was once again forced to delay the nomination of the prime minister on Monday, after the country was rocked by some of the worst violence since protests began.
In Beirut, violent clashes saw riot police fire tear gas and water cannon against the thousands of demonstrators who had gathered near the parliament building on Sunday night, leaving dozens injured.
They had mobilised to voice their anger at the nomination of Saad Hariri as prime minister and at violent tactics used by police which saw more than 40 people injured in clashes just 24-hours earlier.
Lebanon’s interior minister Raya al Hassan had earlier on Sunday pledged to investigate reports of police violence. By the evening she accused “infiltrators” of stoking the violence.
Mr Hariri is currently Lebanon’s caretaker PM after resigning from government in late October.
His expected nomination is indicative of the failure of Lebanon’s political leadership to find a consensus candidate who is accepted by both rival parties in the government and the protesters themselves.
President Michel Aoun released a statement saying consultations would now take place on Thursday to allow for “additional discussion of government formation”.
The United Nations voiced its concern over escalating violence and the failure to reach a political settlement.
Special coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis tweeted: “Yet another postponement of the parliamentary consultations: Either a sign that following the events and statements of the last days politicians start to understand they cannot neglect the voice of the people, or another attempt to buy time for business as usual…
“But with the collapsing economy it is a risky hazard both for the politicians but even more so for Lebanon and its people.”
These demonstrations are unprecedented in Lebanon’s history – with people rejecting traditional political affiliations and religious differences to call for the removal of the current political leadership in its entirety, an independent government free of sectarianism and an end to corruption.
Millions in Lebanon are faced with a crumbling infrastructure and a crippling lack of basic public services. Add to that a deepening economic crisis which has seen hundreds of businesses close down, people’s salaries cut and cash shortages at banks and ATMs across the country and it’s understandable why there is such widespread frustration.
One of the central slogans of the protest movement since it started 62 days ago has been: “Kilon yani KIilon” or “all of them means all of them”. Yet, with the exception of Mr Hariri’s initial resignation, no other senior government ministers have stepped down from their position.
Since Mr Hariri’s resignation, several prospective prime ministerial candidates have been touted as his potential successor, including a former finance minister and a business tycoon – both thought to be multi-millionaires and both outright rejected by protesters.
Despite the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of the protests there are worrying signs of potential escalation if the political impasse continues.
On Sunday evening a group of men dressed in black attacked a protest encampment on Martyrs’ Square setting fire to tents and smashing the windows of parked cars nearby.