A ‘Saad’ day for Lebanon: Hariri’s fourth term as PM met with skepticism

Berri, Aoun, and Hariri pose for a familiar picture as Hariri is named as the next prime minister. The decision angered Lebanese desperate to see new faces at the top. (AFP)
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Updated 22 October 2020

A ‘Saad’ day for Lebanon: Hariri’s fourth term as PM met with skepticism

  • Lebanese voice their anger at the return of the Future movement leader
  • Appointment shows calls for radical change in governance have gone unheard

BEIRUT: The decision to name Saad Hariri as Lebanon’s next prime minister on Thursday was met with anger, derision and ridicule from jaded Lebanese.

Hariri will hold the position for the fourth time despite months of widespread protests calling for a radical change to how the country is governed.

The massive August explosion in Beirut, which was blamed on corruption among officials, added to the anger towards Lebanon’s ruling class - a patchwork of sectarian, dynastic fiefdoms.

However, it appears the weeks of wrangling to find a new government after the previous one stood down in the aftermath of the blast has not produced the sea change many in the country had hoped for. 

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The sight of Hariri, who leads the Sunni Future movement, sitting grim-faced next to 85-year-old President Michel Aoun and the Hezbollah aligned parliament speaker Nabih Berri, did little to bring hope to Lebanese suffering under a dire economic meltdown.

“Hariri’s return as PM is a serious slap in the face to all victims of Aug. 4,” Fatima Al-Mahmoud, a freelance journalist, wrote on Twitter in reference to the explosion that killed almost 200 people.

“Their blood has gone in vain and no one will pay the price.”

 

 

Myriam Sassine, a Beirut-based film producer, said Hariri’s return showed there is nothing but “disappointment and heartbreak” in Lebanon.

“A year after October’s revolution and the resignation of Saad Hariri, Saad Hariri comes back as PM and savior,” she said. “The only change that happened is that we got robbed, violated and murdered while they're stronger than ever.”

 

 

Even the UN’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis expressed his disappointment at the move.

He said the decision to bring back Hariri was taken by the country’s traditional political forces “regardless of their numerous failures in the past and deep skepticism about the future.”

“It is up to them to help Hariri, the designated PM rapidly create an empowered, action-oriented government, to start delivering the well-known reforms. Do not count on miracles, foreign elections or external donors – the rescue must start in Lebanon, by Lebanon,” Kubis said.

 

 

Amid the anger there was also ridicule, as many took to social media to mock Hariri’s return.

“Hariri is like every ex that cheats on you and then cries for a second chance,” wrote one Twitter user.

Others played a game of “spot the difference” with the official photo released today of Hariri, Aoun and Berri, compared to the images used during his previous appointments.

 

 

Hariri, 50, stepped down as prime minister almost a year ago as anti-government protests against economic conditions and calling for an overhaul of the system of government raged across the country.

Hariri was replaced by Hassan Diab, whose ineffectual tenure came to an end days after the explosion. The relatively unknown Mustapha Adib lasted for just a month after he took the position from Diab.

The pressure on Lebanon’s leaders has not just come from within. French President Emmanuel Macron set a series of conditions to make sure any new government enacted reforms to stop Lebanon’s slide to financial ruin.

Hariri was returned to the post after he secured the backing of a majority of MPs.

He said he would form a cabinet of “non politically aligned experts with the mission of economic, financial and administrative reforms contained in the French initiative roadmap.”


Erdogan’s son-in-law leaves sovereign wealth fund

Updated 9 min 39 sec ago

Erdogan’s son-in-law leaves sovereign wealth fund

  • The 42-year-old quit as finance minister in a cryptic November 8 message on Instagram
  • His resignation was ignored by state media until it was formally accepted by Erdogan the next night

ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law quit as the deputy head of Turkey’s huge sovereign wealth fund, completing a fall from grace that began with his surprise resignation as finance minister.
Berat Albayrak had been viewed as Turkey’s second most powerful figure until his chaotic departure from the government at the start of the month.
Married to the Turkish leader’s elder daughter, the 42-year-old quit as finance minister in a cryptic November 8 message on Instagram that cited health reasons.
His resignation from the helm of the Turkish economy was ignored by state media for more than 24 hours, until it was formally accepted by Erdogan the next night.
Albayrak’s two-year tenure as economy chief saw the lira lose 40 percent of its value against the dollar and the central bank burn though most of its reserves in trying to defend the currency.
His departure was linked to Erdogan’s appointment of a new market-friendly central banker whom Albayrak had strongly opposed.
Naci Agbal, the new central bank governor, sharply raised the main interest rate at his first policy meeting last week, helping the lira halt its slide.
Yet Albayrak still held on to his post as deputy head of the sovereign wealth fund, which was created in 2016 and now manages state assets officially valued at $22.6 billion.
Erdogan’s office said little about Albayrak’s departure, noting in a one-sentence statement that he “left the board of the sovereign wealth fund of Turkey after asking to take leave.”
He was appointed as its deputy head in 2018, the same year Erdogan became its official chief.