Iranian-backed Hezbollah appears set to gain in Lebanese elections

PHOTO: A Lebanese woman casts her vote at a ballot station in Baabda, south east Beirut, Lebanon, May 06, 2018.PlayNabil Mounzer/EPA via Shutterstock
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A decisive election victory appears certain for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shia party, alongside its political allies, in Lebanon’s parliamentary vote.

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.

PHOTO: Supporter of Hezbollah carry their party flags and ride motorcycles at the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, May 06, 2018.Nabil Mounzer/EPA via Shutterstock
Supporter of Hezbollah carry their party flags and ride motorcycles at the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, May 06, 2018.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, a party supported mainly by Sunni Muslims and a strong opponent to Hezbollah, is predicted to take a major hit, dropping to just 18 seats from 34.

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.

Majority rule in Lebanon’s parliament by Tehran’s proxy political and military powerhouse, which the United States labels a terrorist group, would add more weight to Hezbollah’s already tough stance against its enemy Israel at a time of heightened regional tensions and while the White House is indicating a possible U-turn on the Iran nuclear agreement.

President Donald Trump is a fierce critic of the international agreement designed to limit Iran’s nuclear activities, calling for stricter measures and even threatening to pull the United States out of the deal altogether.

PHOTO: A Lebanese woman casts her vote at a ballot station in Baabda, south east Beirut, Lebanon, May 06, 2018.Nabil Mounzer/EPA via Shutterstock
A Lebanese woman casts her vote at a ballot station in Baabda, south east Beirut, Lebanon, May 06, 2018.

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.

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