Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri Resigns Amid Mass Protests Threatening Leaders

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has announced his intention to resign amid mass protests threatening the country's ruling elite.

Amid rumors that the Future Movement leader would step down, Hariri offered a televised address Tuesday in which he admitted to having "reached a dead end" after nearly two weeks of talks with rival parties. He said he would be heading to Baabda Palace to submit his resignation to Lebanese President Michael Aoun.

As Hariri spoke, protesters gathered across Beirut and in multiple cities across the Mediterranean Middle Eastern nation could be heard cheering. In a sign of their determination for all leaders to step down, however, demonstrators could be heard chanting, "all of them means all of them."

With the Sunni Muslim third of the country's top level of political representation departing, the pressure is now on Aoun, who largely represents Christians with his Free Patriotic Movement, and longtime Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, head of the Shiite Muslim Amal Movement.

lebanon protests saad hariri resigns
Lebanese anti-government protesters celebrate the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri in Beirut on October 29 on the 13th day of anti-government protests. PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images

Hariri previously offered his resignation in November 2017, citing knowledge of an alleged assassination plot that was disputed by the country's security forces. His father, late Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri was assassinated in 2005 in an officially unsolved bombing that set off mass protests that ousted a Syria-backed administration in charge since the end of the country's 15-year civil war.

Lebanon's political makeup has largely remained unchanged since that last major uprising, with two major blocs dominating the scene⁠—March 8 and March 14, named after the dates of rival protests supporting and opposing the government at the time. Both represent an array of parties, with the former including Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement and Berri's Amal Movement and the latter, including Hariri's Future Movement.

March 8 has managed to make major gains in recent years, boosted significantly by the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement. The group's leader, Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, commands a powerful militia formed with the support of Iran and against Israel, which has twice invaded Lebanon and has engaged in cross-border clashes with Hezbollah.

While Berri and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement since 2014, have been among the most persistent targets of protesters' resignation calls, Nasrallah has also been asked by many to step down. Others, however, have specifically excluded Nasrallah from calls of resignation, considering his position unique and representing a potential schism in the demands of what so far has mostly been a unified rebellion on the streets.

Those participating in the demonstrations have accused the government of mishandling Lebanon's embattled economy, which includes rising debt and a looming currency crisis, as well as enabling corruption paralyzing efforts to fix the country's failing infrastructure.

Last week, another major March 14 figure appeared to cave into the ongoing protests. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea called on his party's four ministers to quit their posts as the government struggled to cope.