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Lebanese, some in yellow vests, protest political gridlock

December 23, 2018
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Anti-government protesters hold Lebanese flags and chant slogans as riot police stand guard in front of the government building, in central Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018. Hundreds of Lebanese protested against deteriorating economic conditions as politicians are deadlocked over forming a new government. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT (AP) — Hundreds of Lebanese protested Sunday against deteriorating economic conditions as public anger mounts against politicians deadlocked over forming a new government since May.

The protesters marched to the government building in central Beirut, carrying placards that called for an end to the deadlock and corruption. Some protesters sported the yellow vests worn by anti-government protesters in France. The call for the protests began on social media, with some using the symbol of a yellow vest with a cedar tree, a national symbol that appears on the country’s flag.

The protests grew rowdy and angry protesters pelted security forces with water bottles.

Security forces deployed, setting up barricades separating them from the protesters in a standoff that locked down the city center. By mid-afternoon, the demonstration began to fizzle but scores of protesters marched to a commercial district in Beirut, chanting “revolution” and urging others to join them.

Protests have spread in recent weeks as rival politicians have failed to form a new government following parliamentary elections in May.

Highly publicized efforts to form a compromise national unity government faltered Saturday, fueling the protesters’ anger the following day.

Demonstrators chanted: “The people want to bring down the regime,” a slogan from the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

The protesters, who said they didn’t represent any particular political party, demanded improved health care, jobs and an end to corruption.

“We want a government,” shouted one protester to a TV reporter.

“I am here to fight against the corruption of the state. We are here to bring back our social services. We need our rights. We need to live as human beings. We need that our government respects us,” said Michel al-Hajj, another protester.

Lebanon’s political system is sectarian; Religious factions share power to maintain a delicate balance years after the country’s civil war ended in 1990.

But politicians are divided, among other issues, over the war in neighboring Syria, often paralyzing decision-making in Lebanon.

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