Hariri: We were betting on a better result but I am very satisfied and the project of stability has won

The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri held this afternoon at the Center House a press conference about the elections.

He said: The Lebanese said their word, and when the Lebanese talk everyone listens.

?Regarding the Future movement, the Future lists and candidates, the word was clear in all popular and representative criteria.

Our battle was on several fronts: Defending our political existence, addressing the fragmentation of the political decision all over our areas, and the fabricated lists that were used by well-known opponents of the Future movement and this was confirmed in figures and facts.

We won on all these fronts thanks to the will of a large audience who can be proud of their big political and popular achievement.

The results you saw so far give the first representation to the Future movement in Akkar, Tripoli, Beirut, Iqlim, Sidon, and even in West Bekaa and Northern Central Bekaa. It gives the movement a large bloc of 21 deputies in the parliament.

It is true that we were betting on a better result and a wider bloc with better Christian and Shiite representation.

But everyone saw that the Future movement was facing the project of excluding it from political life and from the legitimacy of its representation of an essential component of the national equation in the country.

Today we have a new phase and new challenges. And I will continue, at the head of the Future movement, to face the challenges on all political, national and economic levels. We have a large popular support that all the Lebanese saw all over the Lebanese areas.

The elections are a phase that ended. But before that, there were phases with great people who voted for the path of Martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, for the Future movement, for Lebanon's Arabism and coexistence and for the Taef Accord. These people embraced Saad Hariri and the Future movement in the Beirut and Tripoli neighborhoods, in the cities of Akkar, Menieh and Dinnieh, in Sidon, Iqlim, Arqoub and all of the Bekaa. These people are essential in the face of all violations, breaches and projects of controlling the decision of Beirut, Tripoli and all Lebanese areas. They are essential to keep the Future movement a trans-sectarian movement of moderation all over Lebanon.

I have full confidence in the people despite all considerations, and your confidence in us and in me personally is a medal and a responsibility. It is also a road map that we will follow with all of you.

The Lebanese voted today for the project of stability, security and economic advancement. Today, the project of hope in the future has won, and tomorrow we want to continue the work with all of you to achieve this project.

As usual and as Martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri taught us, I extend my hand to all those who are keen on stability, on achieving the required reforms for the advancement of the country and protecting the big achievement of CEDRE conference and all the other conferences held to support Lebanon.

I also extend my hand to every Lebanese who took part in the elections and in the great national effort that we want to continue in the next phase to consolidate political stability, enhance security, advance the economy, find job opportunities for the youth and improve the living standards of all Lebanese.

We should preserve the democracy and freedom that we practiced regardless of the results. We should protect our people and especially the rights of the deprived areas and the rights of the good people there. I witnessed their suffering with my own eyes and it is not acceptable anymore to have a Lebanese citizen living under the poverty line, whether in Akkar, Tripoli or any other place in Lebanon.

Question: We would have liked you to refuse this law because it targeted you

Hariri: This law is just like any other law. There is no doubt that the country was divided and we were able during one and a half years to unify opinions. The most important achievement of the government was the electoral law. You know very well that the country was heading towards vacuum and to an unwanted maze in light of the problems surrounding us. I think the people are important and not the law. We respect the people's word and on the contrary, I feel that I have won and I am very satisfied with the results, and this electoral law is like any other previous law.

Whether this law targets me, I tell you very frankly that I never thought about myself but about the country and the people, and how to pull the country out of all these political troubles that were destroying the national economy.

Questions: Do you think that you did not get the biggest bloc because people are not convinced by the stability choice that you adopted and people prefer another rhetoric, emphasized on sovereignty etc? Are you going to reconsider your strategy?

Hariri: Regarding sovereignty, we never abandoned it. The law allowed many persons who did not have the opportunity in the past, to reach parliament. People want stability and economy. They are tired of politics and want work and job opportunities. Because this law is based on proportionality, it allows some parties, like the Lebanese Forces, to get candidates elected where they could not before, according to the previous law, and I congratulate them on this. This is good, and people voted for stability and those who won today will be partners in this stability.

Question: Some believe that you paid the price of allying with the Free Patriotic Movement. Will you reconsider it in the next phase especially in forming the government?

Hariri: I am still an ally of the President and will remain because this alliance ensures stability for the country and you saw the achievements. Achievements need all components, from President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri to all components of the government.

I want to move the country from one place to the other. I believe that the government's biggest achievement is the elections. People look at winning two or three deputies or losing them. I do not have any problem with the results and if you look at what we expected you would find that we expected to have an additional three or four MPs but what happened is not the end of the world.

For me the political consensus that we have since electing a president protected the country from anything that could come from outside and I am proud of that.

Question: Do you believe there will be stability while Hezbollah's weapons exist? Also Sheikh Naim Kassem said that there will be another talk after the elections?

Hariri: Let him say whatever he wants this does not concern me. The President has explicitly said that there will be a discussion of the defense strategy. You know my opinion about the issue of weapons and I am against it, but will this hinder our course in the country? Or should we put our problems aside and let the country stand on its feet?

I want to remind you that Rafic Hariri came to the country in 1992 when the country was destroyed and the tutelage was facing him. He did not have MPs or ministers except Premier Fouad Siniora. Did the work stop due the presence of tutelage or did he work? What I am saying is that there are strategic disputes with some parties in the country. This is certain and will not change, but do you paralyze the country and not work for the interest of the citizen?

This is the difference between me and the others. We should work and revive the economy in the country, restore tourism, benefit from the CEDRE conference and other economic issues like reforms and others. Our political and economic dispute with the other parties will remain. We froze our conflict and we decided to work on the issue that we agree on, and a dialogue should be held on the issues that we disagree on.

Our problem in the past is that we used to shout at each other and we used to speak without hearing the other party. Today, we held elections, and tomorrow we will form the government and that's it.

Question: Did Beirut II fail Saad Hariri? And yesterday Reuters quoted an Israeli official saying that the results of elections confirm that Hezbollah now is Lebanon. How do you respond?

Hariri: Israel is looking for a reason to mess with us. Lebanon is the Lebanese government, the disassociation policy and the ministerial statement, while Israel kills the Palestinians and attacks them, so why are they talking about us? Lebanon includes different political

components and Hezbollah has a bloc with a specific number of MPs, and this is Hezbollah. Its weapons are a regional issue and we should not hold Lebanon responsible. They know very well that this is not true.

Regarding Beirut, I am very proud of Beirut and its people and we will continue together, and hopefully you will see that the results are for the country's interest.

Question: Why did some insist to turn the battle from a political and developmental one to a battle to break Saad Hariri?

Hariri: They tried to break me over the last thirteen years, but I did not break. They will try that for the next thirteen years and I will not break. I am unbreakable and no matter how much they try I will stand on my feet once again.

Question: You paid the price in the proportional law and you were subjected to a war from all sides and on all fronts. Are you going to have new alliances or will you extend your hand?

Hariri: In 2009 we won the elections, and I consider that we also won the elections in 2018. Maybe the reality in 2009 was different, but at the time the first thing I said is that I extend my hand because I know exactly that this country cannot be ruled by excluding any of its political components. If we really want to achieve the citizens' needs we should work together. But if we want to raise tensions among each other, we can do that. We are not weak, we are very strong but we took a decision to work with everyone to benefit the country. Rafic Hariri worked with everyone and built the country because this cannot be done unless everybody is involved.

Question: How will you face in the next stage, during the formation of the new government, the treason campaigns between the political parties and how will you bring them together on the same table?

Hariri: My job is to bring people together. My job is to establish consensus among all parties.

Question: Do you expect to form the next government?

Hariri: When the Speaker is elected, we will have consultations and each group has the freedom to name whom he wants and I don't have any problem with that.

Question: How do you think the international community should interpret the results of the elections?

Hariri: The International community always wanted an election. And we had an election. These are the results of the elections. They are in favor of Lebanon, of a free and democratic Lebanon. Lebanon showed the International community its resolve in dealing with refugees issues and everything, and the international community should look at the results in a very positive way.

Question: This law consecrated to some extent voting on a sectarian basis. Will Saad Hariri be a catalyst for amendments to the present law?

Hariri: I have no problem with any law. I said before that I do not have any problem with a law based on one, two, three or fifteen electoral districts. If they want to try one of these laws each time I also don't have any problem. This law took a sectarian character in some areas, but we have to look at the Lebanese composition and the sensitivities experienced by some Lebanese components. When we are keen on each other, Lebanon is stronger. When we harm each other, the country weakens.

Question: Will there be a confrontation with Hezbollah during the formation of the government? Do they want you to be a weak Prime Minister in order to impose the form of the government and its ministerial statement? Why do you accept to confront alone, while you have the ability to regather the March 14 forces to form a political team that will be able to face Hezbollah?

Hariri: We tried this before and it did not work. We were not able to approve a budget or achieve any economic achievement. I differ with them on several issues and will continue to differ with them, but what will I say to the Lebanese citizen? Should I stop the work on improving the situation of electricity, water, roads, and economic conferences because I do not want to enter a political challenge?

The political challenge exists and will remain, but the difference is which Lebanon do we want? A Lebanon with economy, growth, tourism, trade, electricity, water, communications and roads? Or continue shouting at each other without hearing each other?

We are not far from everything you have said. The country cannot afford political, financial, commercial, economic or even political differences. The Lebanese citizen is tired and wants the country to progress.

Everyone is surprised by what happened in Beirut. In return, we ask why did this happen in Baalbek Hermel? Perhaps because people are fed up and tired, in addition to the fact that proportional law allows some people to be elected where they could not before. We have to serve people, and not our political agendas. Our agenda is the economic program that is for the Lebanese citizen, not for Saad Hariri, Hezbollah, Speaker Berri or Samir Geagea.

If Geagea, Hezbollah, Speaker Berri or others follow a personal political agenda, I assure you that they will all lose after four years. If there is no development for the country, it will lead to a major financial problem in the country.

Question: How do you imagine the future if God forbid you did not receive the nomination for Prime minister?

Hariri: I can go and rest. (laughs) and enjoy my life, I can go diving, enjoy my bikes, and do a lot of great things. But I think Lebanon needs stability and a program to rebuild the country, especially the infrastructure. It is too early to decide what is going to happen in 15 to 20 days.

Question: Do you think the result you received reflects people's dissatisfaction with the many concessions you made to Hezbollah?

Hariri: No. I believe the law allowed this. If we held the parliamentary elections on the basis of the majority law, we would have won in all regions. But the law today is a proportional law. Thus, we have to work more with the people. I am very happy with the results. There was maybe confusion in this issue but the reason is that our electoral machine stopped counting yesterday and we did not want to announce anything before being sure of the results. Today we became sure of the results, which is winning 21 MPs and we announced that.

Question: What is your personal interpretation of one of the big failure of these elections, which is the low turnout of voters. Is it a problem of mobilization of the parties or a problem of fed-up of the population with the system?

Hariri: The problem with this election law is that a lot of people did not understand it. When people do not understand the law very well and it is complicated, they tend to not be excited about it. At the same time, we reached a record score this time. Certain reforms that we wanted to include in the law and were not able to because of technical problems, like the biometric card that allows the citizen to vote anywhere he is in Lebanon for anyone he wants, would have increased the participation. The election law is complicated and we did not perform all the reforms that we had promised .

Question: You said that the Saad Hariri of 2010 is different from Saad Hariri of 2018. What is the change that you will carry and will you hold those in the Future movement responsible of their mistakes?

Hariri: There were loopholes in the Future movement and everyone responsible for them will undoubtedly be held accountable, and I Saad Hariri, will work more.

Question: Some political parties started to say that they would pick you to head the government, but have demands

Hariri: If I form the government, I will not accept any conditions, unless they are in the interest of the country. If they nominate me and I did not like a specific thing I will walk away, I do not have any problem with that.

Question: Compared to 2009, the Future movement lost approximately one third of its MPs. Apart from the reasons linked to the new electoral law, or other technical reasons, how do you explain these losses?

Hariri: It is purely because of the law.

Question: So you do not intend to change anything in your political program?

Hariri: I will change, because some things were not up to the standards in my political party and we will deal with it. But at the same time the law allows to penetrate some areas because of the proportionality. This is the fist time that we use this law and it is a lesson for us. In four years, if we still have proportionality, we will work much harder and hopefully the results will be different.

Question: Are you going to nominate Speaker Nabih Berri for a new term especially that the opinion of your ally on this subject is known?

Hariri: On the issue of the Speaker, I will answer just as Speaker Berri said: I know whom I will elect.

Question: There is talk that the government will not be formed rapidly, especially since the differences between some political forces are very large?

Hariri: These are all speculations and you have seen how quickly the previous government was formed. It is not in the interest of the country that the next government be formed slowly. We can put all the disputes aside, the important thing is the country, we should stop returning to old ideas like the half, two thirds, or the king minister within the government, all this has no place in the country. When there is political consensus on the big headlines, we can do everything and revive the country, and no one can say otherwise.

Question: There are ministers in the government who accused each other of theft, how will you cooperate with them?

Hariri: I have an excellent relationship with both. The question is how will they deal with each other? Differences in the elections are something and the truth is something else. There is no doubt that there has been harsh talk and I tried to talk the least on this subject.

What is important is that the Lebanese know that this did all these achievements in one year and a half and now we have to continue.

The biggest loss for the Lebanese citizen is to put obstacles in the country through the political matters. The important thing is not to impose on ourselves and on each other things that were not mentioned in the Taef accord or anywhere else.

Finally, I want to thank the citizens, especially the youth, the supporters of the Future movement and the people who participated in the elections. I also want to thank the Lebanese army and the security forces that accompanied the elections although some of the celebrations that followed were not appropriate.

I would also like to thank the ministers of interior and justice for following up this issue for the interest of the country. I thank all the Lebanese who performed their democratic right in this country, which deserves that we carry out this electoral process, especially since many countries do not have this freedom and democracy that we do not appreciate enough.

Source: National News Agency