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Iran-backed Hezbollah, Allies Set for Major Gains in Lebanese Election

08 May 2018

The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah has praised provisional parliamentary election results as vindicating his group's military operations.

An Israeli minister Monday said the election outcome underlines for Israel that the Lebanese state is indistinguishable now from Hezbollah and that Israel shouldn't distinguish between them in any future war.

The Hezbollah and Amal Movement fielded joint "Hope and Loyalty" lists in many electoral districts for this election.

"The parliamentary bloc that Hezbollah will be able to control will not be confined to the 27 Shia MPs, it will be constituted of the 27 Shia MPs and their allies in other communities", he said.

Lebanese people went to the poll stations on Sunday to vote in their parliamentary elections after nine years.

According to the unofficial results, several hardcore pro-Assad politicians allied with Hezbollah also won seats in the new parliament. Economic stagnation and the general disappointment over the devastating war in neighbouring Syria leading to a massive influx of refugees into Lebanon might have propelled them against the prime minister, the AP report said.

The final results are expected to be announced in a news conference later on Monday.

"After nine years, now it's the first time for the Lebanese to participate in this election, and to have the possibility to change or to continue the process of peace and democracy in Lebanon, and the Middle East as well", Risk said.

Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group by the US, but its political wing has long held seats in Lebanon's parliament and is part of Lebanon's outgoing coalition government.

Some 586 candidates, including 86 women, were running for the 128-seat parliament, which is equally divided between Muslims and Christians.

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"The State of Israel (.) will view Lebanon as responsible for any action from within its territory".

The new law redrew constituency boundaries and changed the system from first past the post to proportional representation in an attempt to encourage voting. Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement now has 21 seats, six less than what they had, while Hariri's Future Movement now holds 20 seats, a sharp drop from the 32 seats they won in 2009.

Imad Risk, general manager of the Isticharia Strategic & Communication Studies in Beirut, told Xinhua that whoever wins or loses in this election, Lebanon has set a good example not only for own domestic politics but also for the region.

The biggest victor so far is the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces that nearly doubled its number of seats to 15.

Turnout was 54% in the last election in 2009, he said. Hardcore Syrian allies that were elected on Sunday include former security chief Jamil Sayyed, former deputy parliament speaker Elie Firzly and former Defence Minister Abdul-Rahim Murad.

The gains for parties and politicians who support Hezbollah's possession of weapons risks complicating Western policy in Lebanon, which is banking on foreign aid and loans to revive its stagnant economy and receives USA military support.

"The biggest swing vote will be President Aoun's group, which will move among the other blocs".

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.

According to Nasrallah, a new government will unite the army, Lebanese people, and the Hezbollah resistance.

Hariri explained that poor party performance and the new electoral law contributed to the defeat.