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Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group and its allies lost their parliamentary majority, while more than a dozen independents won seats, according to the final tally released on Tuesday. The results signal a significant change in a country in the throes of a devastating financial crisis.
The Hezbollah-led coalition won 61 seats in the 128-member legislature, down 10 members since the last vote four years ago. The loss was largely due to setbacks suffered by the group’s political partners and was not intended to weaken the Iranian-backed group’s dominance over Lebanese politics. All 13 Hezbollah candidates who ran were elected.
Still, the results were hailed as a breakthrough for groups opposed to Hezbollah and the country’s other main political parties blamed for the collapse, introducing more new independent faces than expected.
Hezbollah’s most vocal opponents, the nationalist Christian Lebanese Forces party, emerged as the big winners, while its Christian rival, the Free Patriotic Movement founded by President Michel Aoun, suffered a political setback.
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Although Christian, the Free Patriotic Movement is an ally of Shia Muslim Hezbollah. The Lebanese Forces now have the largest bloc in parliament with 19 seats, overtaking the Free Patriotic Movement, which now holds 17 seats, a drop of three seats from the previous vote.
Despite the setback, Hezbollah and its main Shiite ally, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal Group, retained all 27 seats allocated to the Shiite sect.
Independents and newcomers, including those from the 2019 protest movement, won 14 seats. It was a major achievement given that they went to the polls in a piecemeal fashion and faced intimidation and threats from entrenched mainstream parties.
Their appearance sends a strong message to ruling class politicians, who have held their seats for decades despite an economic collapse that has impoverished the country and triggered the biggest wave of emigration since the 1975-1990 civil war. .
“The results show that the Lebanese mood is against this ruling class and is also against political alignment with Iran,” said Wissam Raji, head of the Lebanese Forces. “The Lebanese know that the situation has become dire and that the solution is not in the hands of the ruling class.”
“The solution lies in a radical change in the political map of Lebanon at all levels,” Raji said.
The results also portend a sharply polarized parliament, divided between pro and anti-Hezbollah lawmakers who will struggle to work together to form a new government and pass the laws needed to enact reforms for Lebanon’s financial recovery.
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With two main blocs – Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces – pitted against each other, analysts said the findings could lead to more paralysis at a time when the country desperately needs unity.
The spokesman for the UN Secretary General, Stéphane Dujarric, called for the “rapid formation of an inclusive government” that can finalize an agreement with the International Monetary Fund and accelerate the implementation of the reforms necessary to put the Lebanon on the road to recovery.
The UN urged “the new parliament to urgently pass all necessary laws to stabilize the economy and improve governance,” Dujarric said.
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The biggest loss came from Hezbollah allies closely tied to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, including Deputy Speaker of Parliament Elie Ferzli, Druze politician Talal Arslan, who had held a seat for three decades, Asaad Hardan and Faisal Karami, son of late Prime Minister Omar Karami. .
Sunday’s legislative elections were the first since Lebanon’s economic collapse began in late 2019. Government factions have done little to address the collapse, leaving Lebanese to fend for themselves as they plunge into poverty, without electricity, without medicine, without garbage collection or any other semblance. of normal life.
The vote is also the first since a deadly explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020 that killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and damaged parts of the capital.