Hundreds of Lebanese march against confessionalism

Beirut, Feb 27 (AFP) Hundreds of people marched inBeirut today demanding an end to Lebanon''s confessionalsystem, mobilised by a call posted on Facebook, an AFPjournalist reported.

"The revolution is everywhere... Lebanon, it''s yourturn," chanted demonstrators, most of them young people, inreference to the popular uprisings rattling regimes across theArab world since January.

Lebanon''s system of government is rooted in a 1943power-sharing agreement along confessional lines adopted afterthe country won its independence from France.

Aimed at maintaining a balance between the 18religious sects, the agreement calls for the president to be aMaronite Christian, the prime minister to be a Sunni Muslimand the speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim.

Other government jobs are also allocated accordingto religious affiliation.

The power-sharing arrangement has been blamed formost of the country''s problems over the decades, includingcorruption, cronyism and above all the devastating civil war(1975-1990) and its subsequent crises.

The protesters braved torrential rains and marchedon the main courthouse, chanting "the people want to oust theregime," -- echoing the battle cry that toppled veteranleaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

Police and soldiers guarded the building and someof the troops smiled as the protesters arrived while otherstook pictures of the demonstrators.

More than 2,600 Facebook users had signed up toparticipate in the rally but the wet weather seemed to havedissuaded a significant portion.

"Come on Lebanese, rise up againstconfessionalism!" and "We want a secular state" were some ofthe slogans launched at the protest.

"Confessionalism is bad for your health, we ask youto abstain from it," and "Tyrants of Lebanon, your turn isnext" chanted others.

Inspired by the success of uprisings in Tunisia andEgypt, several groups demanding an end to the confessionalsystem have sprouted on the social networking site Facebook.


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