In Lebanon, the end of the Hariri era sows confusion in the Sunni camp

A scent of bitterness floats in the district of Tarik Jdédé. In this Sunni district of Beirut, the announcement on Monday, January 24, by the leader of this community, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, that he will not participate in the legislative elections in May had the effect of an earthquake. “I see it as the end of the Sunnis, we no longer have a base. Lebanon is dead, it only belongs to Iran and Hezbollah, laments Heba, a 60-year-old housewife. At least Sheikh Saad respected himself by resigning. If he had stayed, what could he have promised his people? »

With tears in his eyes, Saad Hariri, 51, head of the Lebanese government three times, admitted his failure. He said he regretted the compromises made over the years with Hezbollah and its allies, with a view to“to prevent any civil war in Lebanon”. “This concern guided all my steps, caused me to lose my personal fortune, as well as certain friends abroad and many allies”, he said. The Saudi godfather, exasperated by these arrangements, dropped him and withdrew from Lebanon, which in his eyes had become a simple link in the pro-Iranian Shiite axis. In the Sunni street, where the anti-Hezbollah discourse is gaining ground, and where the rejection of the elites in power, responsible for the financial sinking of Lebanon, is expressed, the popularity of Saad Hariri is at half mast.

Cornered, the son of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, assassinated in 2005, preferred to throw in the towel, in a decision that many say dictated by Riyadh. “Unlike his father, Saad doesn’t really know what to do outside of power. For him, the reason for existing of the Courant du futur [mouvement politique fondé par le père, Rafic] is the Seraglio [siège du gouvernement]it has no existence in opposition”deciphers Ibrahim Jouhari, a political expert who was one of his advisers.

“The cake is going to be divided”

So few are those who imagine a reversal before the elections, no one dares to insult the future. “Lebanon is a country where the end is never predicted”, they say in his entourage. His decision nevertheless marks the end of an era, that of the “political haririness”. “A political family dies, it’s rare in Lebanon, the cake will be divided”, advances Nawaf Kabbara, political scientist at the University of Balamand. An end which coincides with the bankruptcy of the economic model that Rafic Hariri carried when he came to power in 1992.

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His death in a truck bomb attack on February 14, 2005 propelled Saad onto the political scene. Boosted by the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, the Current of the Future and its Christian and Druze allies won the legislative elections of 2005 and 2009. Hariri junior, who inherited the economic empire built by his father in the Arabian Peninsula, notably the he construction company Saudi Oger follows in the footsteps of the charismatic “Rafic”, the embodiment of moderate and pro-Western Sunnism, under Saudi influence.

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