Lebanon election: Hezbollah strengthened, Hariri weakened

The Hezbollah Shiite party along with its political allies may secure a victory in the recent Lebanese parliamentary election, Al Mayadeen TV reported on Monday, citing preliminary vote results.

Hezbollah had put its full weight behind the Baalbak-Hermel elections, which were handled personally by Hasan Nasrallah, who warned of direct Saudi money trying to buy off voters on Sunday, especially after Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Lebanon, Walid al-Boukhari, visited the district in late March.

Other Hezbollah allies emerging victorious include Jamil al-Sayyed, a Shia former intelligence chief and ex-general, who has strong ties to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and was a prominent figure during Syria's 1976-2005 occupation of Lebanon. It is listed as a terror organisation by the United States.

Mr Hariri is still expected to be asked to form a new unity government.

Five hundred thirty eight candidates ran for a seat in the Lebanese parliament, which has only 128 seats.

It does not give Hezbollah overall power though.

Lebanon's Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem casts his vote as he stands next to Hezbollah parliament candidate Amin Sherri at a polling station during the parliamentary election, in Beirut, Lebanon, May 6, 2018.

Preliminary unofficial results show Hezbollah and its political allies have won more than half of the seats.

The result, if confirmed by the final count, would boost Hezbollah politically, with parties and individuals aligned with the heavily armed group securing a simple majority in parliament in yesterday's election.

On Monday, a member of Israel's security cabinet said that the Lebanese state had become indistinguishable from Hezbollah, which he said would change Israel's calculus should it wage a new war against the militant group. Informal results are expected to start coming in overnight and official tallies in the coming days.

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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri says his party has lost a third of seats in the Sunday parliamentary elections, winning only 21 seats, down from the 33 it had been holding since the last time Lebanon elected a parliament in 2009.

"This is a great political and moral victory for the resistance", Nasrallah said, in reference to his party's identity as bulwark against Israeli and Western aggression.

The election, the first to be held in nine years, was marked by a lower turnout than before, reflecting voter frustration over endemic corruption and a stagnant economy.

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 anti-Hezbollah Christian party Lebanese Forces also appears to have done well in the election, with indications that they have nearly doubled their MPs from eight to 15.

The elections were the first since war broke out in neighbouring Syria in 2011, sending over 1 million refugees to Lebanon, a small country with a population estimated at around 4.5 million.

Lebanon should have held a parliamentary election in 2013 but MPs instead voted to extend their own term because leaders could not agree on a new parliamentary election law.

Lebanese media are reporting that the Shia parties Amal and Hezbollah are expected to win 16 and 13 seats respectively.

As for the so-called candidates for civil society: They have only won a few seats that will allow them to improve women's representation in the parliament, raising their number to seven. That, along with the new electoral law, injected some unpredictability to the process.