Saad Hariri: Lebanon’s Hariri withdraws from politics, leaving sectarian vacuum behind

In a televised address on Monday afternoon, Hariri, three-time prime minister and the country’s most prominent Sunni politician, announced that he was retiring from political life. He called on all members of his Future Movement party, which is the largest Sunni parliamentary bloc in the country, to do the same.

Hariri said neither he nor any member of his party would stand in the legislative elections, scheduled for May 2022.

Hariri leaves a vacuum in Sunni leadership, in a country with a delicate sectarian power-sharing system at stake. Several local media outlets have reported that Hariri’s allies and enemies have tried to dissuade him from leaving.

Lebanon is in the grip of a financial meltdown, exacerbated by a series of political stalemates centering on corruption, sectarian disputes over power sharing and the issue of weapons from Iran-backed Hezbollah.

“I am convinced that there is no room in Lebanon for opportunities in light of Iranian influence, international confusion, national division, bigotry and state fatigue,” said Hariri, 50, who has dual Lebanese-Saudi nationality. in his speech.

Hariri was propelled onto Lebanon’s volatile political scene in the aftermath of the February 2005 assassination of his father, former prime minister and business tycoon Rafic Hariri. With little political experience, he assumed the role of Sunni leader. What followed was a period of violence, including a war with Israel and a series of political assassinations – as well as economic crises.

Hariri has been supported by Saudi Arabia for most of his political career. His political allegiances have pitted him against the militant and political group Hezbollah, in a rivalry that has shaped the Lebanese political scene for nearly two decades. In 2017, Riyadh unofficially withdrew its support for Hariri.

In November 2017, Saudi Arabia temporarily detained the prime minister and forced him to resign, according to multiple sources.

Hariri has since returned to the post of prime minister but, without Riyadh’s patronage, has seen his political power steadily decline. In October 2019, a popular uprising against the Lebanese political establishment overthrew its third government.

At the end of his speech on Monday, a visibly emotional Hariri quoted his father’s resignation speech just before his assassination.

“Finally, the best words for this moment are what Rafik Hariri said in his declaration of absence 17 years ago. ‘I entrust to God the Almighty this beloved country, Lebanon, and its good people “, said Hariri, choking on tears. “And I express my sincere thanks to everyone who has cooperated with me during this last period.”

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