• Thursday, Nov 26, 2020
  • Last Update : 02:52 am

Lebanon vote results set to cement Hezbollah dominance

  • Published at 09:06 pm May 7th, 2018
Lebanon vote results set to cement Hezbollah dominance

Hezbollah was poised to seal its dominance of Lebanon on Monday with results for the country's first general election this decade expected to confirm the Iran-backed party as the main winner.

The polls were also marked by a low turnout of 49.2% and the emergence of a civil society movement challenging Lebanon's oligarchs was set to clinch a pair of seats in parliament.

The number of Hezbollah MPs in the 128-seat parliament may not increase but astute pre-electoral tactics have secured it enough allies to withstand political challenges on strategic issues.

It will also benefit from the fragmentation of its foes, among them Prime Minister Saad Hariri whose Sunni-dominated Future Movement could go down as the election's biggest loser.

"Hariri's loss will be the distinguishing mark of these elections, which will have consequences on the battle to form a new government," the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar daily wrote on Monday.

Hezbollah, which was created in the 1980s to fight against Israel and currently battles in Syria alongside regime forces, is listed as a terror organisation by the United States.

The powerful Shia group is a key political player in Lebanon where it has allied with the Christian party of President Michel Aoun and has participated in Hariri's government since December 2016.

Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk announced the turnout figure at a news conference shortly after midnight and appeared to blame it on the new electoral law agreed last year.

"This is a new law and voters were not familiar with it, nor were the heads of polling stations," he said. "Voting operations were very slow."

As provisional estimates trickled in, some candidates' supporters started celebrating in the streets after a polling operation marred only by a few violations but no major incident.

Parliament majority

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.

A higher turnout had been expected after the long electoral hiatus but the new pre-printed ballots used Sunday appeared to confuse some voters.

Some voters also said that the sometimes absurd web of local alliances that saw some parties work together in one district and compete in others had put them off.

If official results expected in the afternoon confirm Hezbollah's own estimates, the movement which Iran is essentially using for external operations will be better positioned to fend off any suggestion it should disarm.

The leading voice calling for the Tehran-funded movement to give up an arsenal that has now grown to outgun the national army's has been Hariri, who pollsters now say looks less certain than before to keep his job.

Hezbollah members were accused over the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father Rafiq, a charismatic former prime minister.

The new contours of parliament could leave Aoun in the position of kingmaker.

"The biggest swing vote will be President Aoun's group, which will move among the other blocs. Hezbollah will benefit from the lack of a broad coalition against it," political analyst Imad Salamey said.

 
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