Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri suspends his political role and will not stand for election

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Lebanon’s leading Sunni Muslim politician, Saad al-Hariri, said on Monday he was suspending his role in politics and would not run in the upcoming legislative elections, a bombshell announcement amid a national financial meltdown.

Three-time prime minister Hariri also called on his party not to field any candidates in the elections, saying several factors were behind his decision, including Iranian influence – a reference to the heavily armed Shia group Hezbollah.

“I am convinced that there is no room for a positive opportunity for Lebanon in light of Iranian influence, international disarray, national division, bigotry and state collapse. “, did he declare.

“We will continue to serve our people, but our decision is to suspend any role in power, in politics and in parliament,” Hariri said in a live televised speech, his voice cracking with emotion as he spoke in front of a crowd. portrait of his father.

Hariri inherited the political mantle from his father, Rafik al-Hariri, after his assassination in 2005. But while he remains the Sunni leader, his political fortunes have waned in recent years, with his position weakened by the loss of support Saudi.

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. The sectarian elite failed to take action to deal with the crisis even as most of the population fell into poverty.

“Free hand for Hezbollah”

Reacting to the shocking announcement, Lebanon’s leading Druze politician said Hariri’s decision not to leave politics “means carte blanche for Hezbollah and the Iranians”.

Walid Joumblatt said he was very saddened by the decision of Lebanon’s main Sunni Muslim politician. “We are losing a pillar of independence and moderation,” Jumblatt said.

Having led the opposition to Hezbollah’s arsenal for years, Hariri was widely seen as pushing the issue aside as he began to make political compromises with the powerful Shiite group and some of its allies.

This resulted in a deal in 2016 that made Hezbollah-allied Christian politician Michel Aoun the president, with Hariri becoming prime minister for the second time.

While continuing to oppose Hezbollah’s possession of weapons, Hariri described the arsenal as a regional problem bigger than Lebanon, where he said the focus should be on resolving economic issues . Anti-Hezbollah hawks have accused him of compromising, and the decision has cost him support from oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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