Lebanon lawmakers vote on budget, protesters up pressure

BEIRUT (AP) – Lebanese protesters rallying against a proposed austerity budget broke through a security cordon outside parliament on Friday, where lawmakers were voting on the controversial draft bill.

The protesters, mostly army veterans, pushed past barricades, walking over them and making their way closer to the heavily guarded parliament building. Some protesters scuffled with security forces but soldiers were deployed to separate between them. The protesters have gathered every day since Tuesday as lawmakers met for final discussion on the budget ahead of a vote.

The budget is aimed at averting a financial crisis in heavily indebted Lebanon. But it was met with criticism for failing to address structural problems. Instead, the budget mostly cuts public spending and raises taxes.

Army veterans fear the proposed measures would cut into their pensions and benefits. They say those who sacrificed their lives for the country should not be targetted with austerity measures.

“Thieves! Thieves!” the angry protesters shouted, addressing government officials. Many of them are also lawmakers, whom they accuse of corruption.

Lebanese army soldiers and riot policemen stop a retired soldier who is trying to cross the barbed wires and enter the Parliament building where lawmakers and ministers are discussing the draft 2019 state budget, in Beirut. – AP