The eighth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination was an occasion for the slain leader’s son to deliver a rousing political manifesto in the runup to this year’s critical round of legislative polls.
But the address by Saad Hariri was also a strongly-worded declaration that transcends election fever, as he stressed the need to avoid any move toward extremism and sectarianism, which are worrying phenomena in Lebanon as well as the rest of the region.
Hariri stressed that his rivalry with Hezbollah had nothing to do with religious division between the Sunni and Shiite communities, as he pointed out that Shiites in Lebanon have been around for centuries, while Hezbollah is a creation of only the last few decades.
Hariri hammered home the point that weapons that are outside the authority of the state, and loyalties that extend outside the borders of Lebanon, lie at the root of the country’s many ills. Denying this is futile, he continued, while stressing that any solutions should not come at the expense of a sect, or group, but instead should benefit the nation as a whole.
Hariri was adamant that no party should be allowed to ignore the Lebanon’s laws and interests, while being equally adamant that neither he nor his allies would be dragged into the abyss of extremism and sectarianism.
He was firm in his belief that the fall of the Assad regime in Syria was inevitable, just as this collapse would not generate negative repercussions for Lebanon – Hariri reminded his audience that the objectionable acts of the regime in Damascus should end forever, for the victory to be complete.
Hariri acknowledged that the performance of March 14 had not been up to par, but this did not take anything away from the group’s objectives.
In short, Hariri put forward a message of hope, namely that the aspirations of Lebanese would be fulfilled if the country could dedicate itself to the principles of coexistence, national sovereignty and a respect for the rule of law.
When a state-within-a-state continues to exercise power, and believes itself above the law, it will remain impossible to arrive at Rafik Hariri’s vision and see the implementation of his son’s political program.
Within a few months, Lebanon is scheduled to hold a round of parliamentary elections that many believe will be of critical importance in shaping the country’s future. And as Hariri pointed out, in seven years Lebanon will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its formation as a modern country.
He has laid down a road map for this milestone, namely the establishment of a civil state based on moderation and democracy. Achieving this will be an important test for Saad Hariri and his allies in the March 14 movement, and will represent the fulfillment of the legacy of Rafik Hariri.