BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his coalition partners are in a race against the clock as they try to meet a deadline to resolve the turmoil engulfing the country.
Anti-government protests broke out last week, with demonstrators demanding that politicians resign over the dire state of the economy.
In response Hariri gave his fractious coalition a 72-hour deadline, ending Monday evening, to agree on reforms and has hinted he may resign if no deal is reached.
Hariri held a meeting at his residence that was attended by ministers from the Amal Movement, Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement, and the Marada Movement. Progressive Socialist Party ministers were absent, and ministers from the Lebanese Forces parties said they were resigning.
Information appearing online said Hariri had “prepared a tax-free economic paper, which includes strict reform measures, to present it to the representatives of the blocs.”
But his media office denied that the handwritten paper circulating on social media was Hariri’s document.
“What is happening in Lebanon is unprecedented, and PM Hariri has presented a paper of 10 reform items, and he insists on implementing it. It was received with preliminary acceptance,” Future Movement MP Samir Jisr told Arab News. “The most important of the items is approving a tax-free budget and sending it immediately to Parliament.”
He warned that the repercussions of the government’s resignation were more significant than could be imagined, stressing that people had the right to reject the paper if they were not convinced of its seriousness and timeline.
“If the paper is not fully realized, Hariri will step down and there will be a calm transfer of power,” he added.
Development expert Dr. Nasser Yassin said the current events were the result of accumulated government mismanagement, its failure to launch reforms, in addition to the condescending attitude of some of those in the government.
“Officials spoke during these two days as if they were in denial. As if they are unaware that the case is now in a different place,” he told Arab News.
“It is frightening that what will come next will be more painful if those in power are not convinced of retreating to make way for the launch of a transitional phase through clean people, who shall establish a path to the solution.”