This weekend, the Lebanese Confederation of Trade Unions, the main labour union in Lebanon, called for a sit-in to protest the Siniora government’s economic reforms. The action is said to be a first step that could lead to a strike in the country.

The opposition to the government, which has held protests for over five weeks now, has backed the union and has called on all Lebanese to participate in the sit-in in front of the VAT office, a finance ministry building.

Sami Haddad, Lebanon’s economy and trade minister, has called the protests political and has warned against the damage they can do to the country’s war-torn economy. Haddad finds the timing of the sit-in suspicious. According to the finance minister, no changes are to take place until next year, so its questionable that a sit-in is taking place now.

This latest action is yet another indication of how little support the Siniora government has from its own citizens. The sit-in is being organized by a laic workers’ union and is not a Hezbollah-led act. The fact that Michel Aoun, a Christian leader, and Hezbollah supporters have thrown their support for the sit-in does not mean that this opposition is staging it.

Why would it take place now and not in a year, as Sami Haddad would seem to suggest? Because there is still time for the government to adjust its policies listen to its citizens. Because there is momentum in the country, with the sense that citizens do have a voice. Instead of criticizing the sit-in plans, couldn’t Sami Haddad have asked to meet with union leaders to hear them? As it stands, it seems that the Lebanese government is simply not interested in dialogue.

The sit-in is set to take place tomorrow.


Siniora in Russia

Moscow, Russia — Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is in Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials. The visit comes ahead of Basher Assad’s visit to the Russian capital, and is likely intended to garner Russian influence over Syria.

While Syria was not directly mentioned, President Putin said that Russia would help Lebanon ease the political tension.

Role for Syria?

It is no secret that Russia is in good relations with Syria, both politically and economically, so Putin’s support will be useful to the Siniora government. However, more is needed to solve the political standoff.

The idea that Damascus can stabilize the situation lies on the fact that Hezbollah has been linked to Syria. However, the current protests in Beirut are not a Hezbollah-only project. In fact, several political factions have mobilized to demand a unitary government. According to Ziad Najjar, of the Council of Lebanese Canadian Organizations, Hezbollah represents about a third of protesters.

The Lebanese crisis is not about outside actors, but is about the domestic situation. Domestically, Lebanon’s government has limited support; according to a poll conducted by Al-Akhbar, 7 out of 10 Lebanese favor the formation of a unitary government in Lebanon, something Prime Minister Siniora has been refusing.

Syria can certainly help with the situation, but the solution to the crisis is inside Lebanon.