Al Hariri: Lebanon's Prodigal Son Says 'No' to Politics

Published January 26th, 2022 - 09:11 GMT
Saad Hariri in Moscow
Former Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri in Moscow, Russia on 16 April 2021 [Russian Foreign Ministry/Anadolu Agency]

The baffling resignation of Saad Al Hariri from political life and the closure of a personal chapter is a ‘tragedy’ taken out of the history books.

It represents continuing polarity. The young Saad was thrust into political life in 2005 when his father Rafic al Hariri was killed in his motorcade and is now ending his political career at a time when Lebanon is facing the worst economic crises in its history.

It’s a wonder that it took him 17 years to realize that he must leave because of the structural and socio-economic linkages and complexities of Lebanese politics that made effective government sterile and dependent upon patronage and alliances inside the country and outside.

Hariri entered party rule and governance as a political novice and is today still in the first baby-steps of Lebanese politics. Sadly, or critics claim, he never had the dexterity of his father who brought Lebanon’s 15-year-old to an end and walked through the labyrinths of political power while bringing the country into the modern age of the 1990s.

Having said that however, he didn’t do too badly having served as prime minister twice in 2009 and 2016 times and was about to form a third cabinet but it wasn’t to be because of the bickering factions gripping the country. Nevertheless, his tenacity is to be admired as he tried for 10 months in 2020 but was not able to get the ‘old foxes’ of Lebanese politics to agree on a workable coalition. 

These included factions like the Shiite Hizbollah and their Maronite partners - a strange political combination and fixture which Hariri dealt with over the years and in difficult times. But these reached dead ends and roadblocks in 2019 despite the hard-headed knuckle-approach he took to politics.

Hizbollah led by Hassan Nasrallah withdrew his party’s support and stayed firm on that position despite the fact President Michel Aoun gave Hariri an extended opportunity to form a cabinet that turned out to be a waste of time and catapulted Lebanon to run from one crisis to another, a headache that was to continue till today.

It was a disingenuous opportunity offering and reflected the ‘stalemate politics’ which Lebanese leaders were willing to live with regardless of the ‘disfunctionality’ of the state, economy, society and government that meandered the country from one bad apple into another and based on parochial, sectional interest of sects and narrowed communities rather than building a nation and nationhood.

And so Hariri, a primer minister-designate, was left to deal with the complexities of a system that sought to play factional power politics at the expense of ordinary voters who were stuck with leaders who had their own interest while playing on different ideologies, concepts and religion. Despite the power-sharing arrangement which governed Lebanon in cabinet formation the main stumbling block facing Hariri was Aoun, the president, himself.

Standing at the behest of the Free Patriotic Party, and in a way disregarding his son-in-law Gibran Basel who is the actual head, sought to negotiate directly over cabinet seats and portfolios at the expense of other factions. This frustrated Hariri and undermined his ability to get other parties, including Christians to join his government and ultimately he failed.

But regardless and in his so-called “acquittal speech” he was open and frank almost to point of hopelessness lashing out at Hezbollah and it’s Iranian mentors which maybe an oversimplification, but it reflects his feelings on the banal state Lebanon has reached, representing its self-inflicted nadir and cauldron that keeps go further and further diving into a bottomless pit of no return.

In this respect Hariri has took a realistic stance, a recognition that Lebanon and its political masters will not change and therefore its time to quit. He leaves politics at the age of 51 a time when most men would see themselves as entering their political maturity.

While his detractors are happy, his supporters are wailing his move fittingly put by Walid Jumblatt, a leader of the Druze Progressive Socialist Party when said: Lebanon has been orphaned by this move.

What will happen to Hariri now is anybody's guess. He will probably go back to his companies and may more million, if not billions. He already said the party which he leads, Al Mustaqbal, will not participate in the May parliamentary elections but his move has put the whole polls in doubt. Like his father, he built the party in the Hariri family name and this may be also the beginning of the end of family-dominated party  politics. We wait to see!

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