Clashes broke out Tuesday between Lebanese protesters and security forces near the parliament building in central Beirut, where the new Cabinet is scheduled to submit its policy statement ahead of a vote of confidence.
The meeting is being held amid a crippling economic and financial crisis, Lebanon’s worst in decades. Police threw a tight security dragnet around the area, and special forces and riot policemen quickly opened roads that were closed by protesters trying to prevent Cabinet ministers and legislators from reaching parliament.
“No confidence,” chanted some of the protesters. The meeting is scheduled to begin before noon and last until Wednesday.
Lebanon has been gripped by anti-government protests since October. Demonstrators are calling for sweeping reforms and an end to a political class they deem as corrupt and incompetent, blaming it for the rapidly worsening financial crisis. The protests forced the resignation of the former prime minister, Saad Hariri.
New Prime Minister Hassan Diab is expected to read new government’s policy statement, which includes a rescue plan to try get Lebanon out of its economic and financial crisis, the worst since the end of the country’s 1975-90 civil war.
A group of protesters surrounded the car of one Cabinet minister, Demianos Kattar, as he was on his way to the nearby government headquarters, pelting it with eggs pounding it with their fists before an army and police force pushed them away.
Security forces fired tear gas in another street leading to parliament, where protesters were able to remove part of a giant concrete wall. In other streets, troops forced protesters from the middle of the street to allow traffic to flow.
According to a copy of the government policy statement published by local media, it includes an “emergency rescue plan” and reforms in the judicial, financial and administrative fields, as well as fighting corruption and fixing the country’s finances.
Lebanon has one of the highest debt ratios in the world, standing at more than 150 of the GDP and worsening over the past years with no economic growth and high unemployment.