Hariri's Future

The International Crisis Group issued a strongly-worded reportyesterday on the Sunni community in Lebanon and the Hariri family's Future movement. In order to combat sectarianism, it says, prime minister Saad Hariri will have to "relinquish his de facto position as Sunni leader" and turn the Future movement into a proper political party.

The Future movement, it says, is "organised around patriarchal figures" and "works somewhat in the manner of a royal court in which access to resources generally is a function of proximity to the ruling family":

At the same time, the Future Current never established party-like organisational or ideological structures ... It lacks a clear political programme, a coherent, institutionalised decision-making process and professional cadres capable of mobilising and organising supporters. To an extent, supporters are bound together by the power of Rafic Hariri’s memory and legacy, although the staggering national debt, persistent conflict with Israel and shape of the new unity government call into question large components of Rafic’s grand design.

In so far as the Future Current has presented a unifying vision, it essentially has been a negative one, predicated on hostility toward Hizbollah and its local and foreign backers.

The report continues:

Saad Hariri himself has undergone a remarkable shift, from a confrontational role that predetermined much of his behaviour and limited his options to a position at the crossroads of a number of important dynamics: he heads a national unity government which strives to maintain a subtle domestic balance; he embodies a compromise between Syria and Saudi Arabia even as he retains strong credentials in the west; he has a stake in stability and moderation in an environment that, at its core, remains radicalised and volatile; and his success as prime minister depends in part on reversing the very sectarian mobilisation that brought him to power and that ensured his ascendancy over the Sunni community.

In order for Hariri to successfully govern, this transition now needs to be solidified and deepened. Much will depend on his ability to further distance himself from sectarian and clientelist politics and, with Damascus, to manage the thorny issue of Lebanese-Syrian normalisation.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 27 May 2010.