Saturday May 28, 2022

Without Hariri, Lebanon’s Sunnis leaderless ahead of vote

May 14, 2022

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim community is gearing up for Sunday’s parliamentary polls without strong leadership for the first time in decades after former premier Saad Hariri stepped down from political life.

In a country where government posts and parliamentary seats are distributed along sectarian lines, Lebanon’s Sunni community has long served as a major political force. Months ahead of the May 15 vote, Hariri announced his retreat from political life, leaving his constituents without a preeminent Sunni figure while the country grapples with an unprecedented financial crisis.

His Future Movement party in March said it would boycott the election, a move that experts believe could empower political rivals, mainly the Iran-backed Hizbullah movement. "Traditional Sunni leaders, including former premiers, are mobilising... to prevent Hizbullah from taking advantage" of the political void, said Karim Bitar, an international relations professor at the University of Saint Joseph in Lebanon.

The Future Movement, Lebanon’s biggest Sunni-led party, currently has 18 lawmakers in the 128-member parliament, which makes it one of the largest blocs. Its decision to boycott polls has created internal rifts. One former deputy, Mustafa Alloush, relinquished his party membership so he can challenge Hizbullah in the elections.