Hezbollah makes gains in Lebanese election

Larry Hoffman
May 8, 2018

The latter is a good friend of the Saudis, and so is former prime minister Najib Mikati, who swept all seats in Tripoli in northern Lebanon, signaling that Saudi Arabia's long-time favoritism for Hariri has waned.

It does not give Hezbollah overall power though. Longer term, it could affect Lebanon's chances of securing much-needed aid and loans from the United States and the global community. They campaigned on firebrand Lebanese Christian nationalism, saying that they were opposed to the arms of Hezbollah, noting that arms ought to be only in the hands of the state, and were highly critical of Hezbollah's intervention in the Syrian conflict, saying it had attracted ISIS and other jihadi groups into the country.

Both Hariri and Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah were expected to speak in the evening.

"This is a great political and moral victory for the resistance", Nasrallah said, in reference to his party's identity as bulwark against Israeli and Western aggression.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri acknowledged Monday that his parliamentary bloc lost seats in this week's elections, blaming it on a new electoral law and a performance "that wasn't up to the standard".

"The situation is actually worse now, not better we lost the chance to hold them accountable nine years ago", said Fatima Kibbi, 33, a pharmacist.

The group, whose arsenal outguns the army's does not derive its dominant status on the Lebanese scene from the ballot box but the new breakdown of parliament will increase its political legitimacy.

Supporters of the main political parties took to the streets on Sunday night waving Hezbollah and Amal flags as early results suggested that the Shia party was doing well nearly everywhere it stood.

Hezbollah, along with affiliated groups and individuals, secured at least 67 seats, according to a Reuters calculation based on preliminary results for almost all the seats obtained from politicians and campaigns and reported in Lebanese media.

Gabriel Debbane, general manager of Debbane Saikali Family Holding, told Xinhua at a Sidon polling station that he was not satisfied with the way that things went in the past years, especially the power outages and garbage issue. That backfired in favor of Hezbollah and as a result, voter turnout there was very high - reaching 52%.

Therefore, the Hezbollah and Amal Shiite parties, in alliance with the Free Patriotic Movement, may secure over 60 parliament seats, which will be considered the majority.

The election was conducted using a highly complicated new proportional law, with final results delayed as a result.

Official results are expected to be announced by Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk later on Monday, although no time has been set. President Michel Aoun appeared on television to urge Lebanese to turn out.

The traditional big players of Lebanon's sect-driven political life were under no immediate threat of having to loosen their decades-old stranglehold on parliament however. Lebanese politics is highly fractured and sectarian, and alliances and negotiations are expected to be worked out after the dust has settled.

The rival Christian faction known as the Lebanese Forces also doubled the number of its seats to 15.

"The biggest swing vote will be President Aoun's group, which will move among the other blocs". Iran respects (the) vote of Lebanese people.

The preliminary results show at least one candidate from a civil society list - journalist Paula Yaacoubian - won a seat in the capital Beirut, an area traditionally monopolized by established political parties. "I retain my right to legally challenge the results".

Lawmakers had extended their own mandate three times since 2009, ostensibly over security concerns linked to the war in neighbouring Syria and political divisions that led to long and crippling institutional crises.

This did not translate into widespread enthusiasm for the electoral process, however, with voter turnout standing at just under 50 per cent.

Elsewhere in the country, freaky "collusive" local lists were formed among traditional establishment foes to ensure the three main religious blocs of Shi'ites, Sunnis and Christians wouldn't be disrupted too much by the new electoral law.

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