Lebanon election: Hezbollah leader declares 'victory'

Lebanon's parliamentary election raises hopes for changes

West-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Future Movement suffered losses, said preliminary and unofficial results that came out in the Lebanese media on Monday, May 7.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri votes at a polling station in Beirut, Lebanon, May 6, 2018.

Hariri said the results, which have not yet been officially announced, credited his Future Movement with 21 of parliament's 128 seats, a drop from the 33 it controlled in the outgoing legislature. He blamed a new electoral law and a performance "that wasn't up to the standard". Nevertheless, Hariri will form the government of Lebanon, as head of the largest Sunni bloc in Parliament.

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, the Iranian-backed Shia group, is the most powerful bloc in the election.

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 divide reflects the region-wide rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

An anti-Hezbollah alliance led by Hariri and supported by Saudi Arabia won a majority in the Lebanese parliament in 2009, but it has since disintegrated.

Machnouk said official results were expected at 4 a.m. local time Monday (9 p.m. ET Sunday).

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called the vote "a great political and moral victory for the resistance option that protects the sovereignty of the country".

Hezbollah's gains in the Lebanese election on Sunday show that the state is indistinguishable from the Iranian-backed Shi'ite group and that Israel should not distinguish between them in any future war, an Israeli security cabinet minister said.

Pro-Syrian politicians made their strongest comeback since Damascus ended a almost three-decade military presence in 2005.

Formed in the 1980s to fight against Israel, Hezbollah now battles in Syria alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

The polls were also marked by a low turnout of 49.2 percent and the emergence of a civil society movement challenging Lebanon's oligarchs that could clinch a pair of seats in parliament. In Beirut precincts, the turnout was between 32 per cent and 42 per cent.

This year's vote was according to a new election law providing for proportional representation for the first time.

Mr. Hariri has always been close to Saudi Arabia, although that relationship has been under strain since a weird episode a year ago when he was summoned to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and forced to announce his resignation.

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

In a televised address to the nation, Nasrallah said Hezbollah had achieved its stated goals, and thanked the Central election Commission for the operational conduct of elections in the country.

Rival blocs in parliament could not agree on a new president between 2014-16 and repeatedly made a decision to delay elections, partly because of disagreement over moving from a winner-takes-all to a proportional voting system.

The biggest victor so far is the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces, which nearly doubled its number of seats to 15.

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