Lebanon in crisis: hariri returns

A year ago, he resigned after mass protests. Now none other than Saad al-Hariri is to form a government in Lebanon again.

Has already led three governments: Saad al-Hariri Photo: ap

Many can not believe it: In masses, people in Lebanon took to the streets to demand a new political system. "All means all," was their demand, calling for a replacement of the entire political elite, which they perceived as corrupt. They did not achieve much in the way of concrete results, but at least Saad al-Hariri announced his resignation as head of government last October. Cheers broke out among the demonstrators in Beirut.

Now, however, Hariri is to return: After an extremely turbulent year and a failed successor government, President Michel Aoun on Thursday again charged the 50-year-old with forming a government. This was announced by the presidential office at noon on Thursday after Aoun’s consultations with the parliamentary blocs.

However, Hariri must first get a cabinet together that can reach consensus in the small Mediterranean state’s complicated power structure. After Hariri’s resignation, Hassan Diab had initially led a government since January. However, seven months after taking office, Diab resigned along with his cabinet in early August in response to the explosion in Beirut’s port. His temporary designated successor, Lebanese Ambassador to Berlin Mustafa Adib, failed to form a new government. He resigned in September.

With Hariri, a political heavyweight is now once again to take over the office of head of government, which, according to a decades-old convention, is always held by a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon. Hariri, chairman of the Future Movement party, has for years been considered the most prominent and influential Sunni leader in the country.

Should he succeed in forming a government, it would be the fourth time he has become head of government. The wealthy entrepreneur, who holds both Lebanese and Saudi citizenship, had been head of government since late 2016. He had previously ruled from 2009 to 2011. Although he has good contacts in Riyadh, Hariri has also managed to get along with the influential Shiite Hezbollah in the past.

Protests have lost intensity

Hariri’s father, the entrepreneur and politician Rafik al-Hariri, had rebuilt the capital city of Beirut, which had been destroyed in the civil war, in the 1990s and enriched himself immeasurably in the process. He was also head of government several times before he was assassinated in Beirut in 2005. Many blame Hezbollah for the attack.

A new government in Lebanon would face the task of leading the country out of a severe economic crisis. At the same time, the question is whether street pressure will subside and the country’s old political elite will be able to hold on to power unchanged.

Already on Wednesday, after it was announced that Hariri was to be reappointed head of government, demonstrations broke out in Beirut. The months-long mass protests that began last October, however, had lost intensity since the Corona crisis. Even the devastating explosion on 4. August in Beirut did not change this.

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