Lebanon's parliamentary election raises hopes for changes

Men abound while women are rarely to be spotted on the lists of the mainstream parties competing for power in Lebanon's elections. India Stoughton  The National

On Monday evening, may 7, the Secretary-General of the Shiite "Party of Allah" (Hezbollah) Sayed Nasrallah announced a "political and moral victory" of his bloc in the parliamentary elections in Lebanon.

Bennett echoed the assessment of former foreign minister and Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni, who said in February 2017, "today, Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government and therefore, if we will be forced to fight, the next war will be against the state of Lebanon, which will bear the diplomatic responsibility for Hezbollah's actions".

Hezbollah has also sent thousands of its fighters to Syria to support forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in battles against predominantly Sunni rebel forces and the jihadist group Islamic State (IS). It is an enemy of neighbouring Israel and classified as a terrorist group by the United States.

Lebanese prime minister and candidate for the parliamentary election Saad Hariri shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote during the parliamentary election in Beirut, Lebanon, May 6, 2018.

On the opposite side of the political spectrum, the Lebanese Forces emerged victorious on Sunday, raising their parliamentary share from 8 to 15 seats across 13 districts.

Among the main results of the elections is the fixed position of the two Christian parties, the Aounist party and the Lebanese Forces, who have won good blocs, according to their representation.

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Such a result would cement Hezbollah's role in the Lebanese government as the strongest political power in the country. He leads the Mustaqbal, or Future, bloc that is backed by Saudi Arabia, Iran's Sunni rival.

A coalition constituting Hezbollah and allied parties - including Amal, another Shiite party, and the Free Patriotic Movement, the country's largest Christian party - is poised to capture a majority of the seats in Lebanon's parliament according to preliminary results reported on Monday.

Israel has warned that "Hezbollah equals Lebanon" following the election success of the Iran-backed Shia Islamist group in the country's election.

SECURITY PRESENCE After the last election in 2009, the onset of Syria's civil war, the arrival of over a million refugees and a series of militant attacks aggravated internal political rifts.

Though having enjoyed relative peace due to the delicate political balance reached among the Christians, Muslims and the Hezbollah since the 1975-1990 civil war, Lebanon has always been ruled by traditional powers including previous warlords and influential families.

The AP report also added that the new government would likely include Hariri's opponents from the Hezbollah group.

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Turnout was 49.2%, down from 54% the last time legislative elections were held nine years ago.

Senior political leaders, including Hariri himself and Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk whose task it was to supervise the vote, admitted that new voting rules tested for the first time had been perplexing for the electorate.

The late rally may lessen the spotlight on voter apathy, but the calls demonstrated the fears of politicians - be it Shia, Sunni Muslim, Christian or Druze - that voter numbers would fall embarrassingly short and open them up to losses against independent candidates.

The biggest victor so far is the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces that nearly doubled its number of seats to 15. Iran respects (the) vote of Lebanese people.

Hariri said confusion over the new electoral process was behind the poor turnout. However, the election results coupled with hardening external views about the economic and political state of Lebanon could pose new variables in a country that can ill afford them.

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