Thousands protest against Lebanon's sectarian system

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 18, 2011 4:28 PM

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Around 8,000 people protested in Beirut on Sunday against Lebanon's sectarian political system, chanting the same slogans as demonstrators who toppled presidents in Tunisia and Egypt.

The constitution in Lebanon, which has been without a government since Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri was toppled by Hezbollah and its political allies in January, enshrines a division of power between different religious sects.

But critics say the delicate power-sharing has also hindered development, fueled corruption and entrenched the leaders of Lebanon's various Christian and Muslim factions.

"Bread, knowledge, freedom. And no to political sectarianism," one banner at the protest read.

"The people want the overthrow of the system," protesters chanted, echoing the calls which have swept through the Arab world in recent weeks.

The demonstration was held outside Lebanon's electricity ministry which protesters said was a symbol of the corruption and inefficiency Lebanon's sectarian system had produced. The ministry is unable to deliver a 24-hour power supply.

Lebanon suffered a 15-year civil war which ended in 1990 and killed 150,000 people. Major sectarian violence, threatening to tip the country into a new civil war, also broke out in 2008.

Last Sunday hundreds of people held a similar protest in Beirut along a route that was a frontline during the civil war.