Hariri called on all Lebanese to protect civil peace as unprecedented nationwide anti-government protests continue.
“For 13 days the Lebanese people have waited for a decision for a political solution that stops the deterioration (of the economy). And I have tried, during this period, to find a way out, through which to listen to the voice of the people,” Hariri said in his speech.
Lebanon has been paralysed by an unprecedented wave of protests against the political elite and corruption, which has worsened the country’s economic crisis.
Lebanon’s government is designed to provide political representation of all Lebanese religious groups, with its three largest being Christian Maronites, Sunni Muslims, and Shiite Muslims.
The president must always be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the speaker of parliament a Shia.
“Huge gain for protestors”
Hariri’s resignation will be seen as a huge gain by protestors, according to Lina Khatib, director at Chatham House’s MENA programme and research associate at SOAS.
“(It will give) the protest movement momentum after a tough few days during which some demonstrators were beginning to question whether public action was going to achieve much in the face of an obstinate political class that until Hariri’s resignation announcement was refusing to give in to people’s demands,” she said.
The resignation will give a boost to the numbers of people on the street who will insist on the rest of their demands—such as the holding of early parliamentary elections—to be met, Khatib added.
Lebanese protests turn violent
Hezbollah supporters and its Shia ally the Amal Movement ousted protesters in the streets on Tuesday from a roadblock they had set up in Beirut, tearing down their tents and fighting with them, forcing police to intervene in the first incident of its kind since protests began.
A major dispute flared up between Hariri and other groups in his cabinet, with his opponents accusing him of siding with protesters and not allowing security forces to remove them from the streets, sources told Reuters.
Tuesday was the first attempt to unblock roads in the capital by force and police have been instructed to not use force with protesters.
Last week, Hariri tried to calm protesters with a series of reform measures agreed with other groups in his coalition government, including Hezbollah. The reforms were aimed at tackling corruption and putting in place long-delayed economic reforms.
However, demonstrations calling for the resignation of the government continued since no immediate steps towards enacting the reforms were put in place,
The nationwide protests have paralysed Lebanon at a time of deep economic crisis — banks were closed for a 10th day on Tuesday along with schools and businesses.
Hariri’s relationship with Saudi Arabia
In 2017, relations with Saudi Arabia and Lebanon tensed up when Hariri abruptly announced his resignation while he was in Saudi Arabia. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun and Nasrallah believed Hariri was coerced by the Saudis and claimed they held him hostage.
Nasrallah also accused the Saudis of trying to provoke fighting amongst the Lebanese. The Hezbollah movement is an ally of Iran.