Thousands march in central Beirut as political deadlock persists

·2-min read

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Thousands marched in central Beirut on Friday demanding a new independent government to lift Lebanon out of its deepening crisis as frustration over the country's financial meltdown grew.

Lebanon's economic crisis is posing the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Erupting in late 2019, it has since wiped out jobs, locked people out of their bank deposits, slashed 85% of the value of its currency and raised the risk of widespread hunger.

"In light of the terrible failure of those in power socially and politically we are going to the streets to ask for a new independent government and an alternative to the current system," a statement by one group of protesters said.

Lebanon's problems were compounded after a port explosion in August devastated whole tracts of Beirut, killing 200 people and prompting the government to resign, leaving the country rudderless as it sinks deeper into financial collapse.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab's cabinet has stayed on in a caretaker capacity until a new cabinet is formed.

But prime minister-designate Saad al-Hariri, nominated in October, is at loggerheads with President Michel Aoun and has been unable to form a new government to carry out much needed reforms to unlock international aid.

The protest comes after two days of relative calm since nationwide roadblocks persisted for more than a week as groups of demonstrators, angry at the currency's tumble to a new low, burnt tyres to block streets.

Several caretaker ministers have made alarming public remarks in the past week about the state of Lebanon's security and finances.

Interior minister Mohammed Fahmy said security had all but broken down with "all possiblities open", while energy minister Raymond Ghajar warned that cash for power generation was running out fast and Lebanon could be in total darkness by end of month.

(Reporting By Maha El Dahan, Editing by William Maclean)