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Lebanon: Hariri-Rifi Rapprochement Paves Way for Political, Electoral Cooperation

Lebanon: Hariri-Rifi Rapprochement Paves Way for Political, Electoral Cooperation

Tuesday, 19 March, 2019 - 08:30
(From left to right) Former minister Ashraf Rifi, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, former PM Fouad Siniora and former minister Rashid Derbas meet at Siniora’s residence last week. (NNA)
Beirut - Youssef Diab
The relationship between Prime Minister Saad Hariri and former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi is quickly recovering, particularly after a meeting they held last week at former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s residence and which helped close the chapter on three years of political disputes.

The meeting was crowned by a visit by Dima Jamali, the Mustaqbal Movement candidate in the by-elections in the northern city of Tripoli, to Rifi’s residence to thank him for backing her electoral bid.

The parliamentary by-elections are scheduled in Tripoli next month to fill the vacant Sunni legislative seat after the Constitutional Council annulled last month Jamali’s membership following an appeal submitted by the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects (AICP), known as al-Ahbash, which is close to Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.

Observers believe that the Hariri-Rifi rapprochement would not only pave the way for Jamali’s victory, but it would surely build for a phase of positive cooperation between the two officials in the future.

Their meeting “closed the chapter on past disputes and restored their relationship to the way it was before Rifi resigned from Tammam Salam’s government, Hariri’s advisor Ammar Houri told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He said the two men are now engaged in a new phase built on understanding, positivity and cooperation.

The Hariri-Rifi rift took place when the latter surprisingly resigned from the Salam government in 2016 without coordinating his decision with Hariri, who had named him justice minister.

The rift reached its peak when Rifi fielded a list of candidate against Hariri during municipal elections in Tripoli. The former minister scored a sweeping victory in those polls, but could not secure a similar win in last year’s parliamentary elections.

Former minister Rashid Derbas, the sponsor of the Hariri-Rifi reconciliation, told Asharq Al-Awsat that disputes were resolved between the two men, particularly after Jamali thanked Rifi for his decision not to run against her in the by-elections.

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