Lebanese protest against sectarian political system

BEIRUT Sun Feb 27, 2011 11:37pm IST

Protesters shout slogans and carry Lebanese flags during a demonstration against Lebanon's sectarian political system and alleged corruption, near the Justice Palace in Beirut, February 27, 2011. REUTERS/ Khalil Hassan

Protesters shout slogans and carry Lebanese flags during a demonstration against Lebanon's sectarian political system and alleged corruption, near the Justice Palace in Beirut, February 27, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/ Khalil Hassan

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hundreds of Lebanese protested in the capital Beirut on Sunday against the country's sectarian political system.

Emulating protests that have spread across the Arab world in recent weeks, some Lebanese protesters chanted the now-familiar refrain of "The people want to bring down the regime".

Lebanon is governed by a delicate power-sharing system to maintain the balance between the country's many sects. It is unlike many other Arab countries where protests have been against rulers who have governed for decades.

"We are here to bring down the sectarian system in Lebanon because it is more of a dictatorial system than dictatorship systems themselves," said protester Rahshan Saglam.

Lebanon suffered a 15-year civil war which ended in 1990 and killed 150,000 people. Major sectarian violence, threatening to tip the country into a new civil war, also broke out in 2008.

The organisers handed out a leaflet saying they demanded a "secular, civil, democratic, socially just and equal state" and called for an increase in the minimum wage and lower prices for basic goods.

A Facebook page about the event showed 2,656 people due to attend the protest but only a few hundred showed up and marched along a route that was a frontline during the civil war.

Lebanon has been without a government since Shi'ite group Hezbollah and its allies toppled the government last month in a dispute over a U.N. backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of statesman Rafik al-Hariri.

Popular uprisings have unseated the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. Libya is the latest Arab country to witness major unrest. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, in power for four decades, appeared to be losing ground after more than a week of protests.

(Editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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