Protests on electoral reform and refugee rights gain momentum in Lebanon
After two years of uncertainty, Lebanon is teetering on the edge of violence as political factions are unable to broker a power-sharing agreement. Parliamentary elections that were due to be held in 2013 have been postponed until 2017, and parliament has not been able to agree on a new president since 2014. With growing instability in neighbouring Syria, the presidential vacuum is leaving Lebanon unable to address numerous challenges domestically and in the region - such as the Syrian refugee crisis.
Given the political deadlock, many citizens and civil society groups have been campaigning for proportional representation to be introduced. Many claim that electoral reform in parliamentary elections will be the only way to break the political deadlock and usher in a more accountable government. Throughout July and August 2016, hundreds of activists gathered in Beirut in multiple demonstrations and sit-ins to force the government into debating the implementation of proportional representation. Social movements such as We Want Accountability have worked to build a civil society groundswell.
Lebanon continues to have the highest per-capita concentration of refugees worldwide, with Syrian refugees now exceeding 25 per cent of the population. After recent suicide bombings the Lebanese authorities have become increasingly hostile to Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. A recent wave of discriminatory restrictions has been implemented, prompting an outcry from Lebanese civil society groups. On 18 July 2016, demonstrations took place calling for the abolition of these measures, and standing against racism.
Protest in solidarity with refugees against racism and harassment in Lebanon pic.twitter.com/Sb6AVffDo8— محمد ܡܚܡܕ ܐܠܚܠܒܝ (@syriani_) July 18, 2016
Protests and demonstrations on government policies were also provoked by electricity and water shortages. On 8 July 2016, residents of the north Lebanese city of Tripoli held a demonstration over electricity and water cuts and lack of basic services. Similar protests against electricity cuts took place in Barja, south of Beirut. Several people were interrogated after they tried to stop a policeman from shooting live bullets during the Barja demonstration.