Saad al-Hariri announced that he was leaving the post of Prime Minister of Lebanon. His resignation as head of the coalition Cabinet came amid mass anti-government protests continued in the country on October 17.
“I’m heading to the presidential Palace to hand the President my resignation,” said Hariri in a speech that was broadcast on the television channel Al Mayadeen.
According to the Prime Minister, he tried to find a way out of the crisis and to respond to the demands of the people. “However, all these attempts went nowhere, and I resign”, he said.
Hariri called on the Lebanese to preserve civil peace and to prevent the deterioration of the economic situation. “I urge you to protect Lebanon from the fire of economic collapse,” – said the Prime Minister in his farewell speech.
Hariri’s statement about the resignation comes amid continued from October 17, mass protests, paralyzing Lebanon. The demonstrators on the Central square of Beirut demanded the resignation of the coalition Cabinet, the dissolution of Parliament and early elections, reports TASS.
Last week they rejected a proposal of the President of the Republic Michel Aoun to join the “constructive dialogue” with the authorities and nominated by the Prime Minister’s anti-crisis reform plan.
According to sources at Baabda Palace, the meeting of Prime Minister with the President lasted for a few minutes, after which Hariri left the Palace without making any statements to journalists.
The decision of the head of government to resign, welcomed the participants of the protest movement gathered at a rally in downtown Beirut. “Revolution, revolution, revolution!” – shouted the demonstrators. In the crowd were heard calling for the resignation of the President of the Republic.
The Minister of internal Affairs of Lebanon, Raya al-Hassan said that “the care of Hariri, the resignation prevented the slide towards the civil strife”. The leader of the Christian party Lebanese forces Samir of Jaajaa stressed that “the resignation of Hariri is the right solution and meets the requirements of the masses of protesters”.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Progressive socialist party and leader of the community of the highland Druze Walid Jumblatt said that he will support the candidacy of Hariri, if he again will lead the office. “I urge all Lebanese for dialogue and peace,” he said.
The resignation with “unpredictable consequences”
The resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri can turn Lebanon into a weak link of the middle East region as participants of the political process will be busy finding “a new equilibrium” in the country. This opinion was expressed on Tuesday by the Chairman of the Board of the development Fund and support of the International discussion club “Valdai” Andrey Bystritsky.
Speaking about the impact of Hariri’s resignation on the region, he did not rule out the development of a negative scenario. “Lebanon may be the weak link. There is now a relatively delicate balance between very different forces, some of which are radical, said Bystritsky, Recalling the coexistence pashitskij and polovetskih forces in the country. Is quite a complex configuration.”
According to the expert, caring Hariri, no doubt, will make all participants in the process to find a new balance. “It will be found difficult to say,” he said. According to the Bystritsky, “the biggest and most significant that now brings the resignation of Hariri is additional concern for all participants in local political processes.”
“Prime Minister Hariri – a figure controversial, difficult came to power, the expert added. – He started out as a big opponent, as I understand, Syria, [were] for the independence of Iran, then he became a hostage of the very complex relationship, plus faced with a situation where the opposition of the masses was unbelievable.”
According to the Bystritsky, the resignation of Hariri now “just almost an inevitable step to avoid further escalation of violence” in the country.
“Today there is a nearby Turkey with their interests, there is Syria, traditionally very sensitive to the Lebanese issues, there is Israel, there are also Iranian forces. That is, it is a very complex polygon”, – said the expert, adding that the resignation of the Prime Minister of Lebanon should not be interpreted as advantageous “for others.” “This is not arithmetic, difficult situation,” said Bystritsky.
The expert noted that the protests in Lebanon involved, “almost half of the population, if not more.” “This is not a joke. For this small country, the current situation means the complete rocking of a situation. And how it will develop – it’s hard to say,” – he stressed.
Bystritsky recalled that Hariri was doing consistent assignment, but they “have not calmed the public, but rather only provoke”. “He consistently has dismissed members of the government and so on, until sent himself – said the expert.
– I’m not sure the Lebanese love Hezbollah, plus this is a complex situation when the President is a Maronite, someone a Shia, who-the Sunni. So the consequences can be unpredictable”.
The head of the Federation Council Committee on international Affairs Konstantin Kosachev considers that the resignation of the Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri may be a step towards a peaceful settlement of the situation in the country in which you are interested all the healthy forces.
“I am convinced that all the healthy forces in Lebanon and in neighboring countries, and in traditionally friendly Lebanon Russia are interested in peaceful settlement of the crisis, the resignation of Saad Hariri may be a step in this direction. Look at the reaction of the street because of its willingness to dialogue is an important indicator of constructive attitude and the ability to search a reasonable solution. Alternative to all known neighboring countries, no one has the power scenario has not brought happiness. Well, except that some external forces,” Kosachev wrote on his page in Facebook.
He noted that the demands of the demonstrators in Libya are socio-political in nature and relate to the typical countries in the region set of themes: the economy, unemployment and corruption. “Many, that is, accumulated and resulted in a spontaneous rally, but the question is, in what scenario things go on, who and as of now take advantage of this situation and not escalate a peaceful protest into something more”, – said Russian Senator.
He believes that “interested in “shuffle” Lebanese “deck” is already declared”. Kosachev said the news Agency Reuters, which is citing a U.S. state Department spokesman said that Washington supports calls of protesters in Lebanon.
Biography of the Prime Minister
Saad Hariri was born April 18, 1970 in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). His father, Rafik Hariri (1944-2005) was an influential businessman and Prime Minister of Lebanon 1992-1998 and 2000-2004
Saad Hariri received a basic education in Lebanon, then studied at schools in France and Saudi Arabia. In 1992 he graduated from Georgetown University in USA, majoring in “business management”.
In the future, Hariri worked in his father founded the largest construction company, Saudi Oger Ltd. In 1996 he took the post of Director-General. The company implemented major projects in Saudi Arabia (buildings Scientific-technological University. king Abdullah in Jeddah, the hotel “Ritz-Carlton” and the Convention center of king Abdullah in Riyadh), and also did business in Africa, Europe and the United States. In 2006, Hariri established the company Oger Telecom, which later became one of the largest in the telecommunications market and information technologies in the Middle East and Africa.
After the death of his father Rafik Hariri in 2005 in a suicide attack in Beirut, Saad Hariri headed social-political movement “al-Mustaqbal” (“Future”, currently is the largest Sunni party in Lebanon).
His companion was the head of the Progressive socialist party (PSP) and the leader of the Druze community Walid Jumblatt. “Al-Mustaqbal”, the SAPS and a number of other parties (including the Christian “Kataib” and “Lebanese forces”) created the “March 14 Coalition”, who advocated the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon (introduced in 1976 in accordance with the decision of the League of Arab States to separate warring parties in the Lebanese civil war that began in 1975). The work of the coalition, supported by the United States, France and Saudi Arabia, as well as mass protests (the”cedar revolution”) led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops in April 2005.
After the victory of the “Coalition March 14” parliamentary elections in may – June 2005 (got 72 out of 128 seats) the Prime Minister of Lebanon became Fouad Siniora, and Saad Hariri, leader of the parliamentary majority.
In the elections in June 2009, the coalition has received 71 mandate, after which the President of Lebanon Michel Suleiman instructed sa Hariri to form a government. Due to disagreements with the opposition, especially the largest militarized Shiite party Hizbullah (enjoys the support of Iran and Syria), Hariri refused the office. However, the ensuing political consultations his candidacy for the post of Prime Minister was supported by 73 deputies, and on 16 September Michel Suleiman again instructed him to form a Cabinet.
In November 2009, Saad Hariri headed a government of national unity, in which, along with the members of the parliamentary majority was composed of the representatives of the opposition, including Hizbullah.
Hariri has taken a number of steps to normalize relations with the Syrian leadership. Soon, however, re-tightened the rhetoric against Syrian authorities, saying their involvement in the murder of his father. This led to the exit of government Ministers from Pro-Syrian “March 8 Coalition”. In June 2011, Saad al-Hariri resigned as Prime Minister. He and left Lebanon for security reasons, lived in exile in Saudi Arabia and France.
Saad al-Hariri returned to Lebanon in February 2016, Being the leader of a leading political party “al-Mustaqbal”, he declared support for the candidature of Christian politician Michel Aoun for President of Lebanon. This allowed the Parliament to vote on 31 October 2016, the head of state after 2.5 years after the expiration of the term of Michel Suleiman in may 2014 and In November 2016 Michel Aoun after consultations with the parliamentary factions instructed sa Hariri to form a government. In December 2016 Hariri has once again topped the Cabinet of Ministers.
However, he was unable to resist the growing political influence of the Pro-Iranian movement Hezbollah and to seek the disbandment of its armed units that are actually beyond the control of the government of Lebanon.
November 4, 2017 during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Saad Hariri said that he was leaving the post because of “the intervention of Iran and its supporters in the face of the Shiite party Hezbollah in the internal Affairs of the country.” The Lebanese authorities have suggested that Hariri had made such a statement under pressure from the Saudi authorities, and the President of Lebanon Michel Aoun asked for help to USA, UK, China and Russia with the aim of returning as Prime Minister in Lebanon. November 22, Hariri returned to Lebanon and stated that his resignation was delayed for the sake of creating “the stability and Arab identity of the country.” According to experts, this situation was the failed attempt of the crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman to reduce Iranian influence in Lebanon. It was based on the idea of replacing Saad Hariri on his brother Bahu Hariri, who speaks from harsh statements against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
Hariri’s Premiership also coincided with the worsening economic crisis in the country. The situation was compounded by the influx of almost 1.5 million Syrian refugees. In 2016-2017, the GDP growth was 0.6%, the unemployment rate in this period increased from 9% to 20% (according to the government of Lebanon). In October 2017 the Parliament of Lebanon for the first time since 2005, approved the country’s budget, its deficit amounted to 5.2 billion dollars (about 9.5% of the GDP of Lebanon).
In may 2018, despite the fact that the “March 14 Coalition” lost the elections “March 8 Coalition” (42 vs 68), sa, Hariri was again granted the right to form a government. The Cabinet was created only 8 months later in January 2019.
The main problem in the new term Prime Minister Hariri was the deteriorating economic situation in the country (GDP growth in 2018 amounted to only 0.2%, external debt exceeded 150% of GDP). With the aim of reducing the budget deficit (from 11% to 7.5% according to recommendations of the world Bank) the Hariri government adopted a series of unpopular reforms. So, was curtailed social benefits the military, civil servants, pensioners and the disabled, increased tax on tobacco products (on imported cigarettes – to $ 1.3, local – $ 0.5), a tax on the use of instant messaging apps ($6 per month for the use of WhatsApp). Moreover, VAT was to rise from 11% to 15% by 2022.
In October, 2019 on the background of the measures adopted by the government in Beirut and other Lebanese cities began mass anti-government protests, which were attended by over 1.7 million people (a record number of people taking to the streets since the “cedar revolution” in 2005). Hariri promised to cut the salaries of Ministers and MPs by 50% and to cancel all previously adopted decision on reduction of social payments and taxes. However, the protests continued.
Saad Hariri is married to a citizen of Saudi Arabia Lara al-AZM and he has Saudi citizenship. In 2018, Forbes magazine estimated his fortune at $ 1.5 billion.