BEIRUT, Lebanon – Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s former prime minister and one of Lebanon’s most popular politicians for nearly two decades, announced on Monday that he will be taking a break from his political career amid the crisis. scene serious economic collapse that the country’s leaders were unable to prevent.
Mr Hariri, whose party is a counterbalance to the growing power of Iran-backed militants in the country, said he would not run in the upcoming parliamentary elections and called on his political party, The Future Movement is not running for office either.
“I believe there is no room for any positive opportunity for Lebanon in light of Iran’s influence, international chaos, national divisions,” Hariri said in an emotional televised address. , the outbreak of sectarianism and the weakening of the state”.
Mr Hariri’s departure is perhaps the biggest sign yet that the political order that has run Lebanon since the country’s disastrous civil war ended in 1990 is recovering from repeated failure to find a solution. solutions to Lebanon’s growing social and economic problems.
In recent years, the country’s currency has lost more than 90% of its value, impoverishing Lebanese families. ONE Big explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020 killed more than 200 people and powerful politicians worked to block the official investigation into how it happened.
Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militant group and political party, has expanded its arsenal of missiles aimed at Israel and sent fighter jets to intervene in other regional wars. And the country’s rulers, including Mr Hariri, have repeatedly failed to address the economic woes that are happening under their noses, doing little to lessen their impact on the 5.2 million people who live in the country. Lebanon.
Mustafa Allouch, deputy chairman of Hariri’s political party, said: “Saad gave up when he discovered that the country had no hope left.” “I am really worried about the unknown future. Today, I see Lebanon moving towards its demise. “
Hariri’s departure has created a vacuum in Lebanon’s political status quo, leaving many wondering what kind of change it might foreshadow, or increased stagnation.
He was once considered a leading representative of the country’s Sunni Muslims, one of the three largest religious sects that make up Lebanon’s complex power-sharing system. It is unclear who, if anyone, will replace him in that role.
Maha Yahya, Director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said: “His popularity has waned, but so far he remains the undisputed leader of a good portion of the community. Sunnis in Lebanon. “Now that he’s out, this leaves a huge void.”
Mr Allouch said Mr Hariri’s party, which holds 13 seats in Lebanon’s 128-seat Parliament, would not put forward any candidates in elections scheduled for May.
And Ms. Yayha said other Lebanese power brokers may decide not to hold elections if Sunnis are perceived to be causing trouble.
“You can’t have an entire community not participating in elections like that,” she said.
Mr. Hariri is a descendant of a political dynasty that has held top government posts since 1992, when his father, Rafik, a well-known businessman who became wealthy, did business in Gulf region, returned to Lebanon to enter politics and try to help the country. recovered after 15 years of civil war.
Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb explosion in 2005, and the younger Hariri inherited a political cover.
Similar to his father, he has promoted a pro-business vision, being close to Western countries like France and the United States as well as wealthy Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, which favor he politically and helped Lebanon economically.
That stance puts him on the other side of the divide that has long divided Lebanon from pro-Iran factions including Hezbollah and prioritized “resistance,” or the struggle against Israel and American influence in the Middle East.
With his hair pulled back and his tendency to call himself in the third person, Mr Hariri, 51, is a fixture in the country’s politics, serving three terms as prime minister, one from 2009 to 2011 and one from 2009 to 2011. two terms from 2016 to 2019.
But his standing has eroded in recent years as Hezbollah has become more powerful and the ruling class of which he belongs has failed to address the country’s growing problems.
He served in governments allied with Hezbollah, although the Special Court investigating his father’s assassination involved members of the group in the conspiracy.
That has soured his relationship with Saudi Arabia, especially after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman emerged as de facto ruler of the kingdom when his father, King Salman , crowned in 2015.
In 2017, Mr Hariri was summoned to Saudi Arabia, where Saudi officials forced him to resign as prime minister in a video that was broadcast on television and showed him using unusual threatening language. frequently towards Iran.
Hariri’s political allies say he was raped, and that Arab and Western officials intervened on his behalf with Saudi Arabia. Before long, he returned to Beirut, where he resigned, but his relationship with the kingdom never recovered.
Mr. Hariri inherited a large fortune and a taste for business from his father, which financed a liberal lifestyle. However, a construction conglomerate in which he owned a stake went down in 2017, and the employees of a newspaper and television station his family owned went without pay before both of them. business closed. Based on ForbesHis net worth was $1.5 billion in 2018, but he dropped his list of the world’s richest people the following year.
Accusations of corruption and waste have followed him and his political party. (He used to give 16 million dollars a gift for a bikini modeland as tens of thousands of Lebanese took to the streets in 2019 calling for the overthrow of leaders they accused of sending the country into the abyss through corruption and mismanagement, Mr. Hariri was among them. those who are despised. He and his Cabinet have resigned.
President Michel Aoun appointed Mr Hariri again in October 2020 to form a new government, but after nine months and numerous consultations with other Lebanese power brokers, he gave up.
When explaining his decision to leave politics on Monday, Mr Hariri said he has two goals in politics: to prevent another civil war and to give Lebanese people a better life.
He said he got the job done first, not second, and he couldn’t accept that some Lebanese see him as “one of the mainstays of the government causing disaster and a hindrance.” for any new political representation that can create solutions for our country and our people. ”
Hwaida Saad and Asmaa al-Omar contributed reporting.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/24/world/middleeast/saad-hariri-lebanon-quits.html Saad Hariri, Former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Abandoning Politics