BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanon’s leading Sunni Muslim politician Saad al-Hariri said on Monday he was suspending his role in political life and would not run in a forthcoming parliamentary election, a bombshell announcement during a national financial collapse.
Hariri, three times prime minister, also called on his party not to run any candidates in the election, indicating several factors were behind his decision, including Iranian influence – a reference to heavily armed Shi’ite group Hezbollah.
“I am convinced that there is no room for any positive opportunity for Lebanon in light of Iranian influence, international disarray, national division, sectarianism, and the collapse of the state,” he said.
“We will continue to serve our people, but our decision is to suspend any role in power, politics and parliament,” Hariri said in a live televised address, his voice breaking with emotion as he spoke in front of a portrait of his father.
Hariri inherited the political mantle of his father, Rafik al-Hariri, after his assassination in 2005. But while he remains the leading Sunni, his political fortunes have waned in recent years, with his position weakened by the loss of Saudi support.
Hariri’s announcement comes as Lebanon suffers an economic meltdown https://www.reuters.com/markets/rates-bonds/penny-pinching-power-cuts-lebanons-middle-class-squeezed-by-crisis-2022-01-23 which the World Bank has described as one of the sharpest ever globally. The sectarian elite has failed to take steps to address the crisis https://www.reuters.com/markets/rates-bonds/how-bad-is-lebanons-economic-meltdown-2022-01-23, even as the bulk of the population has fallen into poverty.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah, Tom Perry and Laila Bassam; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)