Lebanon acting PM Saad Hariri withdraws candidacy amid protests

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Tuesday he would withdraw his candidacy for the premiership after a second consecutive night of violent clashes in the five weeks of anti-government protests.

A damaged car is seen after a night of clashes between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal Movement with anti-government protesters in Beirut, Lebanon on Monday. Photo by Wael Hamzeh

Hariri had announced his resignation from the post on Oct. 29 in response to nearly two weeks of widespread protests over government corruption and economic crisis, but President Michel Aoun asked him to stay on in a caretaker capacity until various parliamentary blocs heads had chosen a new prime minister.

In a series of Twitter posts Tuesday, he announced he hoped to avoid delay by not seeking to return to his seat.

Hariri posted that people waiting for a decision from him would hold him “falsely” responsible for delaying the formation of a new government, so he is declaring “not me, but anyone else” form the new government.

In another post, he said that a “techno-political government” of “specialists” is needed to handle the “severe economic crisis.”

“A government that mimics the aspirations of young men and women and the distinctive presence of Lebanese women, who have led the ranks in all arenas to emphasize the merit of women in leading the political work and address the crisis,” is also needed, he added in another post.

The announcement comes after the second night of clashes in Beirut where security forces intervened.

Supporters of Hariri’s Future Movement, a Sunni Muslim-led party, confronted supporters of Shia groups Hezbollah and Amal, and a video posted online showed gunfire broke out as motorcycles drove around the area. Police and soldiers separated the groups from confronting each other, and no injuries were reported.

In a separate incident, a car hit a barrier on a coastal road killing two people.

On Sunday night, security forces also intervened when Hezbollah and Amal supporters destroyed tents at a roadblock set up by protesters at a key intersection in the capital.

By Tuesday evening local time, the Lebanese Army was deployed in Baabda to break up scuffles between protesters and supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement, a Lebanese Christian party founded by Aoun.

BySommer Brokaw