Beirut: Hariri quits politics, party ready to boycott vote
The Sunni leader says there is no "chance" for the country as long as it remains under "Iranian influence". The "internal divisions" risk sinking the nation. Political clashes and personal incompatibilities with President Aoun. Following the announcement Hariri headed to the airport and boarded a plane for the Emirates.
Beirut (AsiaNews) - With a broken voice and reddened eyes, in front of deputies and ministers of his own political faction and surrounded by the loyalists of a party that is now in disarray, on January 24 former Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his retirement from active political life.
This announcement comes four months before the general elections, a crucial step in the country's life. And he did so by evoking none other than "Iranian influence" on the country, "disorder on the international scene" and "internal divisions".
He said: "I am suspending my participation in political life and I invite my political family within the Future Current to follow my path." Turning to his own formation, which is still the majority and dominant party in Lebanon, he invited it not to present any candidates in the general elections scheduled for May.
This marks the end of a political era. Hariri deplored the fact that there is "no positive possibility for Lebanon under the mantle of Iranian influence on the country, except for disorder on the international scene, internal divisions, confessionalism and the shattering of the state".
After the assassination of Rafic Hariri," he explained, "I was chosen to carry out his project, certainly not for the Hariri family to remain in power. This project can be summed up in two ideas: preventing civil war in Lebanon in any form and ensuring a better life for the Lebanese. I have succeeded on the first point, but not on the second". He added: 'There is no doubt that in order to avoid a civil war I had to make compromises, first of all the Doha agreement, and then the visit to Damascus and the election of Michel Aoun as president'.
Saad Hariri stressed that these compromises were made at his expense. But the most important goal for him was to have a Lebanon free of civil war and able to guarantee a better life for its people. "This concern guided all my steps, caused me to lose my personal fortune, as well as some friends abroad and many allies, even brothers," he added. The latter was an allusion to his brother Baha, who for the past two years has been building a political career of his own in contrast to that of the former premier.
Among the first reactions was that of the current Prime Minister Nagib Mikati, who stressed that Hariri's words "represent a sad moment for the country". Druze leader Walid Joumblatt said he was sorry that the former prime minister's decision left "the field open" to Hezbollah and the Iranians. "We lose a pillar of independence and moderation," said Joumblatt.
Moreover, it is a well-known fact that Saad Hariri's father, Rafic Hariri, was assassinated in 2005 in an attack in which at least one member of Hezbollah took part, and was found guilty by the International Tribunal on Lebanon. For many observers, Saad Hariri's withdrawal from political life is a further element of success linked to the violent elimination of his father.
What Saad Hariri did not mention, but which the local press has long emphasised, is the reference to Saudi Arabia, the main regional ally of the Sunni community and of Rafic Hariri in particular, and the fact that it has abandoned its own godson to his fate. The main culprit behind this marked change in the Wahhabi kingdom's policy is Mohammed bin Salman (Mbs), who considers Hariri "too complacent" towards Hezbollah.
The deterioration of relations between Hariri and Saudi Arabia is certainly not a story of recent days. On 4 November 2017, while Hariri himself was in Saudi Arabia, Mbs had pressured him to announce his resignation from Riyadh. This announcement triggered indignant reactions in Lebanon, even among his own opponents at the time, who denounced Saudi Arabia's diktat and accused Riyadh of holding Hariri 'hostage'.
The latter was only able to leave Riyadh two weeks after his resignation and with diplomatic intervention from Lebanon itself, at the personal instigation of French President Emmanuel Macron. Since his first ascent to power in 2009, Saad Hariri, who lacked any charisma at the time, has gradually managed to carve out a reputation as a man capable of pursuing compromise. He had submitted his resignation, for the third time, about two weeks after the start of the popular demonstrations against the political class on 17 October 2019.
Despite being appointed on 22 October 2020 to form the government, he was unable to do so because of the hostility of the head of state, Michel Aoun, with whom there are obvious political differences complicated by an insurmountable personal incompatibility. The then Prime Minister in charge wanted to form an independent executive, in accordance with the plan drawn up by French President Emmanuel Macron, while his Lebanese counterpart Aoun has remained anchored to a government that respects the existing political and community balances, with a view to general elections, knowing that the next Parliament will be called to elect the future President of the Republic in October 2022.
Immediately after his speech, Hariri headed for the airport and flew to the United Arab Emirates, where he has settled.