Alwaght- While Saad Hariri is looked at as the most serious option for prime minister post in Lebanon, on Wednesday he released a statement saying that he does not want to be nominated new PM.
The development comes while a majority of the Lebanese political factions want him to be named for the post, including Nabih Berri, the leader of Amal Movement and parliament speaker, earlier said that he agrees to this option.
It should be remembered that Hariri’s resignation in October last year was meant to create a situation for a stronger presence in the post through forcing the rival camp, led by Hezbollah, to agree to a technocratic cabinet that would both silence the opposite voices of the cabinet against his policies and at the same time build legitimacy for himself over the popular protests. When this project failed, Hariri went to great lengths to topple the government of his successor Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
Why did Hariri reject the post? And can the rejection lead to new government formation crisis?
To answer the first question, a couple of possibilities can be pointed to.
1. First possibility is concerned with the current Lebanese circumstances. Probably, Hariri has announced disagreement to his nomination for PM post because he is aware of the huge amount of problems the country is facing and more are to come. Actually, his past performance in the post– no surprise, part of today’s troubles are outcomes of his policies– along with the accumulated problems and present economic crisis make Hariri prefer not to further endanger his political credit and thus chose not to take the post.
Hariri, who faced popular discontent and resigned last year, knows very well that he has to face intensive demands and expectations of people in the middle of crisis if he wants to take the post. Inability to address the popular demands will further damage his political credibility. He knows that at present, standing in the position of a critic rather than holder of PM post as a savior can win him more political chances.
2. As prime minister, Hariri several times used resignation and challenge making tactics to push the parliament to impasse. The deadlock caused snap elections through which he tried to cut the Hezbollah and allies’ seats in the parliament. The current conditions, especially the struggle by anti-Hezbollah parties to paint the resistant movement the party to blame, are ready for Hariri to adopt the same tactics.
3. It is possible that Hariri is playing as a piece in an anti-Hezbollah puzzle of pressure. Presently, a scenario with direct role playing of the US to put strains on Hezbollah is underway. Economic pressures on Lebanon, blacklisting Hezbollah as terrorist group, agitating the protests and guiding them to specific directions, and fueling the sectarian division are part of this scheme, with the final goal being disarmament of Hezbollah and its removal from the nation’s security and political equations.
Causing a crisis and delaying government formation can feed the fire of protests and deeper destabilize the country. This design that at the end of the road targets Hezbollah is thinkable with regard to Saudi sway over Hariri.
The scenarios ahead of Lebanon after Hariri rejection
If Hariri does not hold the position, a couple of scenarios are possible to help form new government and steer clear of parliament dissolution.
1. Hariri names a figure for the post. But this is unlikely as he under Saudi pressure turned down offer for becoming PM.
2. Another figure with majority consensus will be named PM. Diab experience showed that avoiding Hariri is possible and this is likely this time too.
3. A figure, agreed upon by majority, can be named but will form no cabinet. This scenario is to buy time but it does not seem to be of priority for Lebanon parliament.
As a conclusion, Hariri refusal to take the post cannot cause a crisis to the parliament. The last PM experience bears witness to this, especially that there are speculations that the lawmakers will return to this choice.