Beirut – Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s visit to Tripoli on Thursday was significant seeing as it was the first of its kind to the northern city since his appointment to his position. It also marked the first time he headed to the city since his Mustaqbal Movement’s defeat in last year’s municipal elections to former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi.
Rifi’s victory was seen as a political challenge to the premier and all the forces in the city.
Hariri toured various projects in what was seen as a political message and his efforts to regain some of his popular support in the city that has long suffered from the state’s neglect.
He declared during the trip that he will agree to any new parliamentary electoral, stressing: “The state will be in service of Tripoli and its people.”
The premier had arrived in the city on Thursday where he was received by a number of ministers, lawmakers and popular delegations. He kicked off his long day by inaugurating the first phase of the Tripoli bridge before then inspecting the exclusive economic zone at the city’s port, in addition to the Lebanese University campus and projects that are still under construction.
A luncheon banquet was thrown in his honor by Mufti of the North and Akkar Sheikh Malek al-Shaar.
Hariri said during the banquet that his government seeks to restore trust “because the people have lost faith in the state during the recent years of vacuum.”
“Rafik Hariri’s plan was that of the state and institutions. This state will be at the service of the people, not the people at the service of the state.”
Addressing the Tripoli residents, he declared: “Every employee working in this state is at your service and any one who thinks otherwise should come to me.”
On the issue of the contentious electoral law, the PM said: “The other parties should make some concessions in order for us to agree on a new law.”
“I am not sure that we will reach the desired goals however,” he remarked.
“It is shameful that we are unable to achieve this goal in a Lebanon that has always boasted of it democracy,” lamented Hariri.
Mustaqbal politburo member former MP Mustafa Alloush told Asharq Al-Awsat that despite some setbacks, the Movement is still deep-rooted in Tripoli.
“Since his return to Lebanon, Hariri has been tackling central issues to avert the deterioration on the ground,” he added.
“His seat at the head of the government has righted courses in the imbalance in popular bases, whether in Tripoli or other regions,” he noted.
Asked if the Tripoli visit has electoral purposes, Alloush replied: “In politics, everything is connected. Hariri may be the head of the government and there are projects that are being executed through it. He therefore may visit any other region in Lebanon, not necessarily ones that have electoral weight.”