Hariri walks away from politics and upsets the electoral landscape

Lebanese leader Saad al-Hariri said yesterday he was retiring from political life and would not stand in parliamentary elections, reversing Lebanon’s sectarian politics as the country grapples with a financial crisis.
Three-time prime minister Hariri also called on his party not to field any candidates in the May vote, saying several factors were behind his decision, including a reference to Hezbollah.
Hariri’s Future Movement has long been the biggest representative of a section of a community, controlling one of the largest blocs in parliament that also included members of other sects – seats that others can now to earn.
The move injects huge uncertainty into Lebanese politics months ahead of elections, in which Hezbollah’s opponents had hoped to overthrow a majority it won with its allies in 2018.
Some analysts said a boycott by Lebanon’s biggest movement, which would leave the political scene in disarray, could lead to calls for a postponement.
In a televised address, Hariri said he had decided to “suspend all roles in power, politics and parliament”, his voice cracking with emotion as he spoke in front of a portrait of his father, Rafik al- Hariri, assassinated in 2005. .
“I am convinced that there is no room for a positive opportunity for Lebanon in light of influence, international disarray, national division, bigotry and state collapse” , did he declare.
While Hariri has remained Lebanon’s leading politician since inheriting his father’s political mantle, his political fortunes have waned in recent years, with his position weakened by the loss of support from the Gulf region.
Future lost a third of its seats in 2018, some to groups allied with Hezbollah.
Walid Joumblatt, Lebanon’s top Druze politician, told Reuters the announcement was “very sad because we are losing a major pillar of independence and moderation”. “It means a free hand for Hezbollah,” he added.
Hariri’s announcement comes as Lebanon is suffering from an economic collapse that the World Bank has described as one of the worst ever recorded in the world.
Carnegie Middle East Center fellow Mohanad Hage Ali said a boycott by Hariri “pulls the rug out from under the whole process and would increase speculation that (the election) might not take place”. .

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