Hezbollah, Allies Set to Be Largest Bloc in Lebanon
May 10 2018 by Lorena Waters
Sunni Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri is frontrunner to keep his job and form a new coalition government after an election seen as vital to Lebanon's economic stability, but his Future Movement was widely expected to lose seats.
BEIRUT-Hezbollah and its allies have won a small majority of seats in Lebanon's first parliamentary election in almost a decade, the militia and political group said, boosting its influence and giving its patron Iran greater sway over the country.
Hezbollah was poised to seal its dominance of Lebanon Monday with results for the decade's first general election expected to confirm the Iran-backed party as the main victor. Hezbollah and its political allies won just over half the seats in parliament, according to final results from all but one of Lebanon's 15 electoral districts.
The Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah and its allies expect to emerge stronger from a parliamentary election on Sunday, a result that would affirm Iran's regional ascendancy from Tehran to Beirut.
A higher turnout had been expected after the long electoral hiatus, but the new pre-printed ballots used Sunday appeared to confuse some voters.
Asked whether he would give up co-existing with the group in a unity government, Mr Hariri countered that the alternative would mean complete paralysis. "I urge leaders of [all] political forces to calm down and abandon provocative statements, as they may lead the country to a problem", Nasrallah said.
More than 500 candidates ran for 128 seats in Lebanon's National Assembly.
A preliminary reading of the results showed the Christian Lebanese Forces, which is anti-Hezbollah, had doubled its number of MPs from eight to 16, making it the party with the biggest gain in seats in the election.
The United States and Israel, which have designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, are on increased alert.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Future Movement party, backed by Saudi Arabia and western countries, acknowledged it had lost seats. After stressing "political and moral victory of resistance", he has praised persistence of his allies and friends "despite repeated foreign political and media pressures over m in recent years".
Citizens of Beirut, many supporting Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri, took to the streets on Monday protesting Hezbollah's victory in the polls, while Hezbollah supporters stormed into Sunni neighborhoods to celebrate their taking control of the parliament.
In addition, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who's winning the seven-year war in Syria, "will exercise control over Lebanon through Hezbollah", Nader added.
Lebanon has always been beset by corruption and division, and the election results were widely expected.
"This is a new law and voters were not familiar with it, nor were the heads of polling stations", he said. However, the new electoral law, which replaced a winner-takes-all system with proportional representation requiring a choice for a list as well as an individual candidate, is thought likely to weaken the two blocs.
Debt ratings agencies had stressed the importance of Lebanon going ahead with the election after parliament had extended its term several times. 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.