May 24, 2018

Lebanon votes in shadow of Syria war, reflecting divisions

09 May 2018, 07:57 | Rufus Hill

Lebanon elects its first new parliament since 2009

Report: Hezbollah allies set for gains in Lebanon parliament

"The state of Israel will not differentiate between the sovereign state of Lebanon and Hezbollah, and will view Lebanon as responsible for any action from within its territory", an Israeli security cabinet minister was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement and its political allies made major gains in Lebanon's parliamentary elections, which also saw a significant drop in support for Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Future Movement.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Monday the global community should look at results of Lebanon's election in a "very positive way".

Consistent with the "nationwide pact" relationship from independence in 1943, the president should be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite.

The most important achievement however was the one obtained by the Christian opposition party that is most critical towards Hezbollah, the Lebanese Forces of Samir GeaGea, which are expected to have nearly doubled their presence in Parliament from eight to 15 seats.

Lebanon's politics has been divided by the Syrian war, with some parties supporting the Iran-sponsored Hezbollah's intervention in Syria to aid President Bashar Assad, and other Saudi-aligned parties opposed to it.

"My hand is extended to every Lebanese who participated in the elections to preserve stability and create jobs", Hariri said in a televised statement.

"It is only normal due to the demographic nature of Baalbek/Hermel to lose a couple of seats for other parts, but their attempt was to take a Shiite seat... they even stated that one Shiite seat equals 127 parliaments members according to them".

The election was held under that law adopted a year ago, which was expected to give Hezbollah a majority in parliament.

"What we aimed at was achieved", Hezbollah secretary general said, adding that "this is a political and moral victory for the choice of resistance which will protect the country's sovereignty".

Moreover, Sayyed Nasrallah called for wisdom in order to form a new government within eight months, especially amid the regional developments, as "we don't know where the region is going" ...

Official results showed one candidate from a grassroots movement of activists, journalist Paula Yaacoubian, won a seat in the capital, an area traditionally monopolized by establishment political parties.

The staunchly anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Forces, a Christian party, appears to have emerged as a big victor, almost doubling its MPs to 15 from eight, according to the unofficial indications. His patron, Saudi Arabia, cut Hariri adrift in November and remained disengaged in the lead-up to the vote.

The initial results were announced on Monday night by Interior Minister Nuhad Mashnuk.

The new election law also allowed Sunni rivals to contest the elections.

Some 49 percent of eligible voters turned out, according to the unofficial results of Sunday's election, the first poll conducted under the new proportional representation system and the first election since 2009.

But many, including Machnouk, blamed the new, complex law for the tepid turnout, particularly in Beirut.

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