Lebanese protest against the political impasse

A banner that reads: "The days of sectarian regime are over" and calls for revolution
A banner that reads: “The days of sectarian regime are over” and calls for revolution

Hundreds of Lebanese took to the streets Sunday to protest against a political impasse that has prevented the formation of a new government seven months after elections.

Sunday’s protests in Beirut were organized by the Communist Party but drew others frustrated by the country’s deepening political and economic crisis, said The Associated Press.

Wearing red scarves and raising red flags, protesters complained about corruption, poor public services and spiraling public debt that is more than 150 percent of GDP.

One banner reads: “Off to the streets: enough talk.”

Protester Osama Assad said failure to form the government only “doubles the risks.” Hanna Gharib, of the Communist Party, said the protests would escalate.

Months after the May parliamentary elections, Lebanese leaders are still at odds on how to parcel out cabinet positions among rival groups according to a political system that shares out government positions among Christians and Muslim sects.

The final hurdle to a deal has been Sunni representation, with six Sunni lawmakers who are aligned with the Hezbollah group demanding a cabinet seat to reflect their gains in the election.

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri had rejected this demand.

He did however, express optimism Thursday that the dispute could be overcome.

“I think the pressure that we have from the economic crisis … is pushing more and more people to form the government,” he said at Chatham House in London.

Heavily indebted and with a stagnant economy, Lebanon desperately needs a new government to implement economic reforms to put its public finances on a more sustainable footing and unlock foreign aid.