In an interview Sunday evening with Sawt Beirut International, Bahaa Hariri, son of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, announced that his party Sawa li Lubnan will put forward around 30 candidates in legislative elections scheduled for May 15. However, regarding his own candidacy, the businessman, who has been living outside Lebanon for 17 years, remained evasive, remarking that it was not a priority issue for the moment.
During the interview, the eldest member of the Hariri family spent almost an hour outlining what looks like a political program, insisting mainly on reconciliation between Lebanon and the Gulf countries.
In late October, Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Beirut and imposed a ban on all Lebanese imports, alleging that the country is largely under Hezbollah’s control.
“We do not cooperate with Hezbollah,” Bahaa Hariri said Sunday, as if to distance himself from the modus vivendi policy advocated for years by his brother, Saad Hariri, leader of the Future Movement.
Known by the respectful title of “Sheikh Bahaa” in the Gulf Arab monarchies, the Sunni billionaire had declared last November that in Lebanon “we must start by removing from power the majority hostile to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.”
The interview comes less than a month after Saad Hariri announced his withdrawal from political life. The former prime minister could no longer count on the support of his Saudi sponsor.
On Jan. 28, five days after Saad’s announcement, Bahaa had said he would “embark on the battle to take back Lebanon and its sovereignty,” though he did not clearly announce his willingness to run in the May 15 elections. In a recorded message, he also mentioned that he would soon be back in the country. In an apparent criticism of his brother's decision, he said that “to scare people by raising the specter of a vacuum in one component of Lebanese society only serves the enemies of the nation.”
Bahaa Hariri, who claims to be both the political heir of his father and the voice of popular protest through his movement Sawa li Lubnan, tried Sunday to play both sides. He insisted on the one hand on the need to fight corruption and not to make any compromise with the traditional political class, while making several appeals to the Sunni community.
“I will not accept that the Sunni community be marginalized and I promise to give them back their rights,” the elder Hariri said.
Insisting on the importance of his father’s legacy, he called for the implementation of the “Taif Agreement” and the “separation of religion and state.”
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour.