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Lebanese Hezbollah allies likely to lose parliamentary majority

  • The first batch of official results are shown
  • More of Hezbollah’s Oldest Allies Lose Seats
  • Lebanese forces allied with Saudi Arabia are gaining ground
  • Parliament is more divided, opening the way to a dead end

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Three sources allied to the Iran-backed group said on Monday that Hezbollah and its allies are likely to lose a majority in Lebanon’s parliament after Sunday’s elections, in a major blow to the heavily armed party and reflecting anger. with the ruling parties.

The losses of the pro-Iranian alliance—along with unexpected victories for new candidates against other establishment parties—may lead to political deadlock and exacerbate tensions, potentially further delaying reforms that address Lebanon’s economic crisis.

On Monday, the Lebanese Ministry of Interior announced the first batch of official election results, the first since the economic collapse and a huge explosion in the port shook the capital.

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Opponents of Shiite Hezbollah, including the Saudi-allied Lebanese Forces, a Christian group, and reform-minded newcomers scored major victories according to partial official results, campaign managers and party sources.

Political sources allied to Hezbollah said their initial statistics showed the party and its allies were unlikely to win more than 64 of the parliament’s 128 seats.

That is a marked downgrade from the 2018 election, when the coalition won 71 seats, pushing Lebanon deeper into the orbit of Shiite-led Iran and further away from Sunni-led Saudi Arabia.

This year’s results can counter this effect. On Monday, Iran said it respected the vote and had never interfered in Lebanon’s internal affairs.

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Domestically, the results leave parliament divided into several camps and more sharply polarized between Hezbollah’s allies and opponents, who are not currently united into a single bloc.

‘national celebration’

Among the notable losses was the great ally of Hezbollah and the deputy speaker of parliament, Elie Ferzli, 72, who lost the Christian Orthodox seat in the western Bekaa, according to the official results.

Ferzli lost to a candidate backed by well-known Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, but Jumblatt’s list also lost a Sunni seat to independent candidate Yassin Yassin.

“After two and a half years of direct confrontation in the streets against the government of injustice, we have finally started the journey of change in Lebanon. This is a national celebration!” Yassin told Reuters.

Another shocking loss is the Druze politician allied with Hezbollah, Talal Arslan, who was first elected in 1992, and who lost his seat to newcomer Mark Daou.

Independent candidate Elias Jaradi was expected to snatch an Orthodox Christian seat from Assad Hardan, a pro-Syrian member of parliament in Hezbollah’s traditional stronghold in southern Lebanon.

The Lebanese Armed Forces said no single bloc has a majority – including Hezbollah – but it has set its victory at 20 seats, up from 15 in 2018.

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That would allow it to defeat the Free Patriotic Movement allied with Hezbollah, the largest Christian party in parliament since 2005.

The head of his electoral apparatus told Reuters that the Free Patriotic Movement, founded by President Michel Aoun, had won as many as 16 seats, down from 18 in 2018.

Muhannad Hajj Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center said their dwindling representation – along with losses in the south and western Bekaa – would deal a “huge blow” to Hezbollah’s claims of cross-sectarian support for its powerful arsenal.

However, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, an ally of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, swept all the seats reserved for their Shiite sect, according to expectations from both parties.

Sunni representation appeared divided between allies and opponents of Hezbollah, amid a low voter turnout for a sect once dominated by prominent politician Saad Hariri, who has lost Saudi support in recent years.

Hariri’s withdrawal from political life divided the Sunni political leadership and kept many potential voters at home.

The poorest, Sunni-majority Tripoli had the lowest turnout. Mustafa Alloush, a former Hariri aide who ran there unsuccessfully as an independent, said families waited for election bribes that never came.

It is a sad sight, Alloush told Reuters.

The next parliament must elect a speaker, nominate a prime minister to form a government, and then elect a president to replace Aoun, whose term ends on October 31.

Any delay could delay the reforms needed to unlock support from the International Monetary Fund and donor countries.

Jamil al-Sayed, a lawmaker close to Hezbollah who retained his seat, told Reuters that the outcome would lead to an increasingly dysfunctional political system.

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Al-Sayed said any failure to assemble a parliamentary majority raised the specter of “social collapse or civil war, unless foreign powers intervene”.

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(Coverage) Laila Bassam, Taymour Azhari, Maya Gebaili and Tom Perry. Additional reporting by Lina Najm. Written by Tom Perry and Maya Jebeli; Editing: Ed Osmond, Hugh Lawson and Frank Jack Daniel

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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