Iranian-backed Hezbollah appears set to gain in Lebanese elections

Lebanese voters chose their representatives for the first time in nine years.

Sunday’s election was the first time in nine years Lebanese voters were able to choose their representatives.

A coalition made up of Hezbollah and Amal, the two major Shia parties, plus the Free Patriotic Movement, the largest Christian party, with various smaller allied parties, could potentially win more than half the seats in the 128-seat Lebanese parliament, according to preliminary results reported by Lebanese media this morning.

Hariri held a news conference later today in which he said his Future Party has won 21. Either way, his numbers are still unofficial. The final results can only come from the electoral commission.

Hariri downplayed the significance of Hezbollah gains, saying, “Lebanon can only be governed by all its political constituencies and those who say otherwise are kidding themselves.”

Under Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim. So even with his losses, Hariri is likely to remain the nation’s leader.

Israeli leaders reacted negatively to the potential win, with Education Minister Naftali Bennett tweeting this morning, “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.”

Official results had been expected at dawn, but there was still no list of winners by midday, possibly because of a new voting system that is believed to have slowed the counting process.

The new voting procedures were also blamed for relatively low voter turnout, recorded at around 49 percent, down about 4 percentage points from the last election nearly a decade ago.