The Iran-backed Hezbollah has suffered a setback in Lebanon’s parliamentary election, with preliminary results showing losses for some of its oldest partners and the Saudi-aligned Lebanese Forces party claiming seats.
The final composition of the 128-member parliament has yet to be determined, since votes are still being tabulated. When Lebanon voted in 2018, the heavily armed Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah and its allies secured a 71-seat majority.
The upcoming election is the first since Lebanon’s terrible economic disaster, which the World Bank blamed on ruling politicians following a massive port explosion that wrecked Beirut in 2020.
Hezbollah-allied Druze politician Talal Arslan, heir to one of Lebanon’s oldest political dynasties who was first elected in 1992, lost his seat to Mark Daou, a rookie campaigned on a reform programme, according to Mark Daou’s campaign manager and a Hezbollah official.
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At least five additional independents who campaigned on a programme of change and holding politicians accountable for Lebanon’s worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war appeared to win, according to preliminary findings.
The outcome of Sunni Muslim seats contested by allies and opponents of the Shiite movement will determine if Hezbollah and its allies can maintain their majority.
The Lebanese Forces (LF), which is bitterly opposed to Hezbollah, has claimed gains that put it on track to overtake the Hezbollah-aligned Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) as parliament’s largest Christian group.
The LF secured at least 20 seats, up from 15 in 2018, according to LF press office chief Antoinette Geagea.
According to Sayed Younes, the leader of the FPM’s electoral machine, the party had gained up to 16 seats, down from 18 in 2018.
Since its founder, President Michel Aoun, returned from exile in France in 2005, the FPM has been the largest Christian party in parliament. Aoun and the commander of the LF, Samir Geagea, were civil war foes.
The LF, which began as a militia during Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, has frequently demanded that Hezbollah hand over its weapons.
“A BRAND NEW START”
In a Hezbollah-controlled district of southern Lebanon, an opposition candidate also achieved a breakthrough.
Hezbollah-allied Druze politician Talal Arslan, scion to one of Lebanon’s oldest political dynasties, was first elected in 1992, according to Mark Daou’s campaign manager and a Hezbollah official.
“For the south and for Lebanon as a whole, it’s a new beginning,” Jradi told Reuters.
According to Nadim Houry, executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative, the majority will be determined by the outcomes of 14 or 15 seats.
“You’ll have two blocs opposing each other: Hezbollah and its friends on the one side, and Lebanese Forces and their allies on the other, with fresh voices entering in the centre,” he stated.
“For the FPM, this is a clear loss. They maintain a bloc, but they have lost many seats, with the Lebanese Forces benefiting the most. Samir Geagea has established himself as the new Christian strongman.”
To create a cabinet, the next parliament must name a prime minister, which might take months. Any delay would stymie changes aimed at combating the crisis and gaining backing from the IMF and donor countries.