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Hariri Tests His Popularity in Northern Lebanon Ahead of Elections - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Beirut – The visit of Prime Minister Saad Hariri to the North of Lebanon surpassed the cadre of inspecting the needs of this unprivileged region and rather takes a political dimension to constitute a real test for the leader’s popularity in the area, considered a popular reservoir for Hariri’s political party, the Future Movement.

Hariri’s visits, which kicked off with meetings around the Iftar tables hosted by the Prime Minister, had started in the city of Tripoli and then moved to Akkar, Dinniyeh and ended up in Minieh.

Those visits appeared as an attempt to prove that Hariri was still the strongest leader in the Sunni arena, at a time when other political figures try to enter the north of Lebanon and take a bite from Hariri’s popular assets, such as former Justice Minister Asharf Rifi.

Hariri spoke at several Iftars held in the North and said he chose Rafic Hariri’s line, the line of moderation, which in no way constitutes a line of weakness.

“If moderation had the flavor of weakness, they would not have killed Rafic Hariri,” he said during a speech delivered during an Iftar organized in the “Citadel” hall in Bebnin by the Future Movement coordinating committee in Akkar.

Member of the Future Movement politburo Mustafa Alloush told Ahsarq Al-Awsat on Monday: “The number of people who attended the Iftars were more than expected. Those welcomed Prime Minister Hariri’s speeches.”

However, Alloush said that it was still too early to say that Hariri’s popular asset returned to what it was years ago.

Asked whether Hariri was still the strongest despite the emergence of other Sunni leaders, such as Rifi or former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Alloush said: “We cannot compare the person of Prime Minister Hariri with other politicians because the popular force of Hariri is stretched across the entire Lebanese territories.”

Meanwhile, Khaldoun Sherif, a political figure close to Mikati, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Hariri is now the prime minister of the entire country and counted that his presence in power would repair what he has lost during the years spent outside the country. “Hariri needs to restore his electoral force in all Lebanon and not only in the north.”

On Monday, Hariri met with the families of the Islamist detainees at Al-Khair Mosque in Minieh and listened to their demands to accelerate the determination of the fate of their children.

Hariri said: “We all know that there is injustice in Syria against the Syrian people, we reject it and empathize with the oppressed.”

However, he said, “Everyone should be careful not to join the extremists under the pretext of supporting the Syrian brothers, or to hide behind religious slogans for irresponsible objectives.”