Hariri’s status as Lebanon’s Sunni community leader confirmed

Brief respite. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (L) meets Lebanese Grand Mufti Abdellatif Deryan at the Government Palace in Beirut, on November 22. (Dalati and Nohra)

2017/11/26 Issue: 133 Page: 10

The Arab Weekly
Samar Kadi

Beirut- The warm reception that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri received upon his re­turn home two weeks after he announced his resigna­tion from Riyadh November 4 reinforced his status as the un­disputed leader of Lebanon’s Sunni community.

Thousands of supporters from various regions, including the north, south and the Bekaa Val­ley, converged on Hariri’s man­sion downtown Beirut to greet him, raising Lebanese flags and the banners of his Future Move­ment.

“We offer you our blood and soul,” chanted the crowd, reaf­firming their allegiance to the political heir of slain premier Rafik Hariri, one of the most popular Sunni leaders in Leba­non’s modern history.

Since Hariri’s return to Leba­non was confirmed, prepara­tions to welcome him kicked off in the streets of Beirut and across parts of the country. Posters of Hariri with the slo­gan “We are all with you” were raised from the road leading to the airport all the way to Bei­rut’s centre, including on main streets and intersections and in the mainly Sunni cities of Sidon and Tripoli.

“Regardless of the (contro­versial) way the resignation was made and which harmed Leba­non’s national dignity, Hariri’s return to the country constitut­ed a test of his popularity,” ob­served political writer Radwan Akil.

“The rallying of the people from across the country around him clearly revealed that the man is still the number one lead­er of the Sunni community and capable to lead it politically and in the (forthcoming) elections,” Akil said, adding: “If elections are to be held tomorrow, I am sure that the majority of the Sunni seats in parliament would be swept by Hariri’s party.”

Saudi-backed Hariri, who put his resignation on hold at the re­quest of President Michel Aoun, saw his popularity slide when he agreed to Aoun’s election last year and formed a govern­ment largely dominated by Iran-backed rival Hezbollah.

“The scene today and the large demonstration of support would not have happened be­fore Hariri’s resignation. There is no doubt that his declared in­tention to resign has served his popularity,” Akil said.

“It is an internal message as much as it is a message to the Saudis and the whole world that the Future Movement is the nerve of the Sunni community in Lebanon and that this com­munity is on Hariri’s side,” he added.

Under Lebanon’s sectar­ian power-sharing system, the president must be a Christian Maronite, the premier a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker Shia.

Samar Kadi is the Arab Weekly society and travel section editor.

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