Organisers of today’s march in Beirut are coming to terms with a disappointing turn-out, one year on from Rafiq Hariri’s death. Last year, millions marched on the capital in support of their slain leader. This year, a couple of hundred thousand went on to the city’s streets.
But it was more of a rejection of the political mood than a rejection of the Hariri legacy.
Last spring, young Lebanese rallied round their political leaders, hoping that a new unity, a new political reality was about to be born. This spring, they are coming to realise that the unity was short-lived – torn about by the sectarian divisions of the election campaigns – and the new political reality is a political stalemate.
The mood on the Lebanese street is of lost opportunity.
And today’s rally was boycotted by the main Christian leader Michel Aoun – the man who paints himself as the real opposition failed to ally himself with the Hariri-bloc last year, but still managed to win most of the seats in the Christian heartland.
Sa’ad Al-Hariri spoke to the crowd – well, the handful of people – from behind a glass screen. No, he doesn’t think he’s the pope, he’s worried that one of his adoring fans might shoot him.
And he unveiled Lebanon’s new mantra: ‘Lebanon first’, in a deliberate snub to the three-quarters of a million Palestinian refugees and thousands of Syrian workers.
But, in an interview with Lebanese television, Sa’ad Al-Hariri cut a more concilliatory tone:
“We do not ask for a change of regime in Syria, but that it makes peace. We thank Syria for having ended the war in Lebanon but we will handle our own affairs now … The Syrian regime did a lot of wrong in Lebanon and spared her neither insults nor threats.”