Hezbollah, Amal and allies biggest winners in Lebanon elections
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.