05/17/2022, 20.06
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Lebanese elections produce changes, Hezbollah loses majority

by Fady Noun

Independents and protest groups take votes (and seats) from traditional parties. Pro-Iranian movements lose ground. For analysts, this is “a political turning point”, but others express a word of caution. The president’s election will be a crucial test. Meanwhile, many fear clashes and tensions in the coming months.

 

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Marc Daou, candidate for Progress (Taqadum), a new party that came out of the recent protest movement, cannot believe it. He was just elected in Aley district, a Druze seat formerly occupied by Talal Arslan.

 “My election reflects a shift in Lebanese society, the premises of which we saw during the popular uprising of October 2019,” he said, still amazed. “A new Lebanon is emerging, far from traditional quarrels, confessional divisions and sociological constraints. I owe my electoral seat to this wave,” he added speaking on a TV show the night of his victory.

In fact, a real social shift has just occurred in Lebanon. “The new parliament will not look like the old one and the election, despite its limits, marks a real political turning point,” writes French-language daily L'Orient-Le Jour.

The final results were released today at noon (local time). They are:

  • Amal: 14 seats (10.94%)
  • Free Patriotic Movement: 17 seats (13.28%)
  • Linked to the Future Movement: 8 seats (6.25%)
  • Hezbollah: 13 seats (10.16%)
  • Kataeb (Phalanges): 4 seats (3.13%)
  • Lebanese Forces: 19 seats (14.84%)
  • Marada: 2 seats (1.56%)
  • Progressive Socialist Party: 8 seats (6.25%)
  • Protest groups: 13 seats (10.16%)
  • Independents: 16 seats (12.50%)
  • Linked to 8 March Alliance (pro-Hezbollah): 9 seats (7.03%)
  • Linked to 14 March Alliance (anti-Hezbollah): 2 seats (1.56%)
  • Tachnag: 3 seats (2.34%)

Last Sunday’s vote saw one loser and two “winners”. Hezbollah is the first – together with its Christian allies of the Free Patriotic Movement, it lost its majority in parliament. In total its alliance can claim 61 seats out of 128, down from 71-74 in the previous legislature.

The big winners are the Saudi-backed Lebanese Forces, which becomes the largest Christian party in the Assembly (19 seats against 15 in 2018), as well as the protest groups, which win 13 seats, taken from the country's traditional political dynasties.

Now the question is what to do with this “victory”. While Hezbollah may have lost its majority, no alternative unified majority is the wings. All that is certain is that a majority of lawmakers are hostile to Hezbollah and pro-Syrian parties. This new situation is all the more important since it is this house that must elect the country’s new president before the mandate of the current office holder, Michel Aoun, ends on 31 October.

Some experts consider the term “victory” to be exaggerated, and warn against any triumphalism. They point out that while Hezbollah is in decline and even down by two seats, one lost in its strongholds of South Lebanon (Lebanon-South III), it still represents most Shias in alliance with Amal (27 seats). This means that it will continue to play kingmakers when it comes to forming the new government and picking the parliament’s new speaker.

Moreover, even though in the Christian community, the Lebanese Forces has more seats than the Free Patriotic Movement, the gap between the two is small, 19 to 17 seats.

With a 41 per cent turnout, all the efforts put in by parties fell far short than their objective to get out the vote. However, for expert Salem Zahran, this is closely tied to the economic crisis and high levels of emigration.

According to the expert, turnout in places like Dubai, Berlin and Paris was above 70 per cent, a reflection of the country’s unprecedented economic crisis, which forced so many to leave since the previous elections in 2018.

Among Sunnis, the call for a boycott by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri had limited effects thanks to appeals to vote by the Saudi Ambassador, the Mufti of the Republic and former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, an early ally of Rafic Hariri.

Proof of that are the excellent results by the anti-Hezbollah “hawk” Ashraf Rifi, in Tripoli, and Osama Saad, in Sidon (Saida), where Bahia Hariri did not run.

According to L'Orient-Le Jour, all these people and parties do not form a single bloc and could oppose each other on several key issues; nevertheless, ad hoc alliances could emerge, for example, on the investigation into the twin explosion at the port of Beirut, which Hezbollah has tried to derail.

Confronted with the new reality, Hezbollah’s number two, Mohammad Raad issued a warning to the new MPs, mainly to the Lebanese Forces. “We accept you as adversaries in parliament, but we will not accept you as shields protecting the Israelis,” he said. “Don't fan the flames of civil war," he added. Visibly, Lebanon can expect days of tensions in the coming months.

 

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