Anti-corruption protesters rally outside Lebanon ministry

AP News
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Posted: Sep 15, 2015 11:44 AM
Anti-corruption protesters rally outside Lebanon ministry

BEIRUT (AP) — Dozens of Lebanese activists held a protest on Tuesday outside a Finance Ministry building in the country's capital, after failing to storm it — part of a recent series of anti-government rallies stemming from a trash collection crisis.

The protesters attempted to enter the building earlier in the day, as employees were arriving. But security forces quickly prevented them, closing the doors to the protesters and other arriving staffers.

The protesters chanted against corruption in state institutions. They said they are taking their protests to the Finance Ministry, asking that it stop paying salaries for lawmakers who have been unable to convene. The protesters complain the parliament, elected in 2009, is illegitimate.

Members of parliament have illegally extended their term twice and the legislature remains deadlocked over an election law and choosing a president. Lebanon has been without a president for over a year.

"There are 128 lawmakers and they have not been doing their job," Neamat Bader al-Deen, an activist with a group called "We Want Accountability" told local TV channels during the protest. She estimated that millions of dollars went to the lawmakers who have not convened to review government policies, approve a budget or elect a president because of political bickering.

"Why should people not doing their job get paid, while others are not getting their salaries," she asked.

Teachers and public sector employees have been demanding the parliament approve a salary scale for over three years.

What started as protests against trash piling in the streets because of government dysfunction is turning into Lebanon's largest protest movement in years, targeting an entire political class.

Also Tuesday, activists briefly closed a main road in downtown Beirut and dumped trash outside the Environment Ministry after a meeting with Environment Minister Mohammed Machnouk failed to make progress. The activists say Machnouk rejected their demands to resigns over the trash crisis.

"The garbage piling up on the streets is proof of his failure," said activist Hassan Katayesh, who has been on hunger strike for nearly two weeks.