PROFILE: Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri

ANKARA (AA) – Saad Hariri, Lebanon's prime minister-designate and Future Movement leader, said this week that he was “close” to unveiling a new cabinet lineup, which, once formed, will be his third government.

In May, President Michel Aoun tasked Hariri with forming a new government after a parliamentary vote in which Hariri secured the support of 111 out of 128 lawmakers.
Since then, however, the government formation process has been dogged by repeated delays.

According to Lebanon’s 1943 constitution and the 1989 Taif Accord (which ended the country’s 15-year civil war), the premiership is reserved for a Sunni Muslim, the presidency for a Maronite Christian, and the post of parliament speaker for a Shia Muslim.

The Taif Accord also called on Syria to withdraw its military forces from Lebanon over a two-year period, but this failed to materialize.

The assassination in 2005 of former PM Rafiq Hariri (Saad’s father), however, prompted massive demonstrations in capital Beirut, which soon forced Damascus to pull its forces from Lebanon.

The Syrian regime and Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah militia were both accused of carrying out the assassination, although little evidence has been produced to support this assertion.

Born in 1970, Saad Hariri hails from a Sunni family of modest means from Lebanon’s southern city of Sidon.

Saad was largely unknown in Lebanese politics until the death of his father — and subsequent withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon — in 2005

Following his father’s assassination, Hariri eventually became the leader of Lebanon’s Future Movement, once it was established in 2007.

Although Saad’s brother, Bahaa Hariri, was originally intended to succeed his father, an international consensus — including Riyadh, Paris and the Washington — ultimately settled on Saad to complete his father's political work.

In 2005, Hariri was elected parliamentary representative for Beirut, winning — along with his allies in the so-called March 14 Alliance — a majority of the assembly.

Hariri did not contest the premiership at the time, but supported his late father's longtime friend, Fouad Siniora, to head up the country’s next government.

In the summer of 2006, a major conflict erupted between Israel and Hezbollah that resulted in extensive destruction, especially in Southern Lebanon.

On May 7, 2008, amid a dispute with the government, supporters of Hezbollah and its allies converged on Beirut, besieging Hariri and his March 14 allies in the capital.

This eventually yielded the Doha Agreement, drawn up to heal the rift between the country’s two main political camps.

Siniora, meanwhile, was re-appointed to the premiership and tasked with drawing up another government.

In 2009 parliamentary polls, Hariri was re-elected and appointed prime minister for the very first time.

Hezbollah and its allies, however, managed to bring down Hariri's government in early 2011, with cabinet ministers affiliated with the March 8 Alliance (which includes Hezbollah and Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement) tendering their resignations.

Soon afterward, Najib Mikati — a Sunni Muslim — was named prime minister, eventually leading a government from which figures affiliated with the March 14 Alliance were excluded.

At this point, Hariri left Lebanon amid a raft of political — and financial — difficulties.

He returned to the country in August of 2014 — following the Battle of Arsal in Lebanon’s Beqaa region (which pitted the national army against Nusra Front and Daesh terrorists) — before abruptly leaving again.

During this period, Hariri lived mainly between Riyadh and Paris, where he worked on resolving Lebanon’s chronic presidential vacuum.

Hariri backed Suleiman Frangieh for the presidency, but Frangieh was eventually defeated — by Aoun — in elections held in late 2016.

Hariri was later re-appointed PM, leading a new government drawn up in December 2016.

In November of last year, he abruptly announced his resignation from the premiership in a televised address delivered from Saudi Arabia.

But Hariri returned to Beirut more than two weeks later, saying he had put his resignation “on hold”.

In May of this year, Hariri was re-elected — for the third time — but lost his parliamentary majority, with his Future Movement winning only 21 out of 128 seats in the national assembly.

Considered one of the region’s most prominent political personalities, Hariri maintains an extensive network of international relations, especially with Riyadh and Paris.