BEIRUT (Dispatches) – Lebanon’s grand mufti has called for the formation of a new emergency government of technical experts and for those in power to meet protesters’ demands.
The country is in political and economic turmoil after three weeks of nationwide protests that prompted Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign last week.
"The time has come to meet the people’s demands and the national free will that transcends sects, political parties, and regions,” Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian said in a televised address on the occasion of Prophet Mohammed’s (Peace Be Upon Him) birthday.
"The time has come and is opportune, after this national wake-up call, for the reform process to begin and for those in power to form an emergency government made up of competent people, without delay,” Derian said.
Unemployment stands at more than 20 percent, according to official figures. Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of endless political deadlocks and an economic crisis in recent years.
The Lebanese Finance Ministry says the national debt is hovering around $85 billion, which accounts for more than 150 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Successive governments have failed to address a waste management crisis or improve the electricity grid, which is plagued by daily power cuts.
Hariri submitted his resignation to President Michel Aoun on October 29.
Under the constitution, Hariri’s cabinet would stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.
The protests began on October 17 when the government proposed imposing a tax on Whatsapp calls, along with other austerity measures.
Protesters in Lebanon have stopped blocking roads and setting up barricades, and instead shifted to holding sit-ins at state-affiliated sites.
They say they will maintain pressure on the political establishment until their demands for the departure of the ruling elite and an end to chronic economic mismanagement and corruption are met.