Hezbol­lah, Amal and al­lies big­gest win­ners in Le­banon elec­tions

The Miracle - - National & Int -

Hezbol­lah and its po­lit­i­cal al­lies are the big­gest win­ners in Le­banon’s first gen­eral elec­tion in nine years, an anal­y­sis of the pre­lim­i­nary re­sults show. Hezbol­lah and Amal - dubbed the “Shia duo” by lo­cal news me­dia - are pre­dicted to have won 29 seats in Le­banon’s 128-seat par­lia­ment dur­ing Sun­day’s vote, ac­cord­ing to unof­fi­cial tal­lies cited by politi­cians and lo­cal me­dia re­ports. More than 11 seats are pre­dicted to have been won by other po­lit­i­cal par­ties aligned with the duo. The long-awaited elec­tions were marked by a voter turnout of just un­der 50 per­cent, down from 54 per­cent in the last leg­isla­tive elec­tion in 2009, Nouhad Mach­nouk, Le­banon’s in­te­rior min­is­ter, said on Mon­day. Has­san Nas­ral­lah, Hezbol­lah’s leader, de­clared the out­come a “na­tional achieve­ment” in a tele­vised speech on Mon­day. Sun­day’s elec­tions were Le­banon’s first in nearly a decade of tur­bu­lent pol­i­tics. Since 2009, the Le­banese have watched their govern­ment col­lapse twice - in 2011 and 2013 - the pres­i­dency sit va­cant for 29 months - from 2014 to 2016 - and their par­lia­ment extend its man­date sev­eral times. Nas­ral­lah said Hezbol­lah achieved what it was hop­ing to in the elec­tions. Com­ment­ing on the con­test be­tween the Hezbol­lah-led bloc and the Fu­ture Move­ment party of Saad Hariri, Le­banon’s prime min­is­ter, in Beirut, a Sunni strong­hold, Nas­ral­lah said the re­sults will show that “Beirut is for all the Le­banese” and that it is “a cap­i­tal of the re­sis­tance”. Im­ages cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia on Mon­day showed Hezbol­lah sup­port­ers tear­ing up posters of Hariri and his late fa­ther and for­mer Le­banese prime min­is­ter, Rafik Hariri, the pre­vi­ous evening in Beirut. Hezbol­lah, Amal and their al­lies ap­pear to have se­cured more than the “ob­struc­tion­ist third” needed to block the most im­por­tant ac­tions of par­lia­ment, Ke­mal Feghali, a veteran Le­banese poll­ster, told Al Jazeera. Ex­plain­ing that a two-thirds quo­rum vote is re­quired in cru­cial mat­ters, such as amend­ing the con­sti­tu­tion or elect­ing a pres­i­dent, Feghali said: “Be­cause they have more than a third [of par­lia­ment], they can block the quo­rum.” In typ­i­cal leg­isla­tive ses­sions, only a sim­ple ma­jor­ity of 65 mem­bers is re­quired to vote, some­thing Hezbol­lah, Amal and al­lies can ob­tain by re­new­ing their al­liance with Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Move­ment (FPM). Hezbol­lah and FPM signed a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing in 2006, af­ter Aoun re­turned from ex­ile, and have been close al­lies since. It is the first such al­liance be­tween a ma­jor Ma­ronite Chris­tian and Shia po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Le­banon’s his­tory. Hy­po­thet­i­cally, a con­tin­ued al­liance with FPM, which re­port­edly won 17 seats in Sun­day’s elec­tions, could give Hezbol­lah and Amal “an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment”, Feghali said. How­ever, it is not en­tirely cer­tain that Hezbol­lah and FPM will main­tain their 12-year al­liance. Through­out the elec­toral cam­paign, es­tab­lish­ment par­ties nav­i­gated the coun­try’s strict sec­tar­ian quota by hastily strik­ing deals to pro­duce a new patch­work of lo­cal alliances. FPM’s strat­egy ap­peared to be aimed at cob­bling to­gether “coali­tion lists” of con­ve­nience de­pend­ing on the lo­cal elec­toral cal­cu­lus - that is, en­ter­ing into alliances with po­lit­i­cal par­ties in cer­tain dis­tricts and si­mul­ta­ne­ously run­ning against them in oth­ers. As such, FPM could very well con­sti­tute a sep­a­rate bloc “on the side”, and “de­pend­ing on the topic, they will de­cide on who to side with,” Feghali said. Sami Nader, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst, told Al Jazeera Hezbol­lah and Amal “don’t even need the Aounists (FPM) to form a bloc [in par­lia­ment] or to ob­tain the veto power”. “They can do it with­out them,” Nader said. Hezbol­lah and Amal ran uni­fied lists un­der the name Al Amal Wal Wafa (Ara­bic for Hope and Loy­alty) across the coun­try, but also ran can­di­date lists with al­lied par­ties such as the Syr­ian So­cial Na­tion­al­ist Party (SSNP), the Marada Move­ment, the Arab Lib­er­a­tion Party (ALP) and the Majd Move­ment. Hezbol­lah and Amal fur­ther al­lied with prom­i­nent yet con­tro­ver­sial fig­ures: one, who emerged vic­to­ri­ous at the unof­fi­cial polls, was Jamil al-Sayyed, a Shia for­mer in­tel­li­gence chief with strong ties to Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad. The Shia Duo swept the polls in Le­banon’s South District II, com­posed of Zahrani and Tyre, and South District III, made up of Na­batiyeh, Mar­jayy­oun, Bint Jbeil and Has­baya. Per the strict sec­tar­ian quota that long gov­erned the coun­try, the two dis­tricts to­gether are al­lo­cated 18 seats in to­tal: 14 Shia, one Greek Catholic, one Greek Ortho­dox, one Druze and one Sunni - all of which were won by Hezbol­lah, Amal and their al­lies.

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