Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has blamed new voting rules on why his party lost 12 seats.Hezbollah and its political allies have made significant gains in Lebanon’s parliamentary election, official results show, boosting an Iranian-backed movement fiercely opposed to Israel and underlining Tehran’s growing regional clout.
The leader of Shi’ite Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, called the result “a very big political, parliamentary and moral victory for the choice of resistance”.
The number of Hezbollah MPs was the same or little changed, but candidates supported by the group or allied to it gained in major cities. Hezbollah and its political allies won just over half the seats in parliament, according to final results late on Monday from all but one of Lebanon’s 15 electoral districts.
Branded a terrorist group by the US, heavily armed Shi’ite Hezbollah has grown in strength since joining the war in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad in 2012.
The strong showing by parties and politicians who support Hezbollah’s possession of weapons risk complicating Western policy in Lebanon, which is banking on foreign aid and loans to revive its stagnant economy and receives US military support.
An Israeli minister said the outcome showed the Lebanese state was indistinguishable from Hezbollah, signalling the risk of Israel hitting Lebanon’s government in a future war.
Western-backed Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri lost over a third of his seats, the results showed. He blamed a complex new voting law and gaps in his party’s performance.
But with 21 MPs, down from 33 in the last parliament, he still emerged as the Sunni Muslim leader with the biggest bloc in the 128-seat house, making him the frontrunner to form the next government.
The staunchly anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Forces, a Christian party, emerged as a big winner, nearly doubling its lawmakers to around 15, according to initial indications.
Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni under its sectarian power-sharing system. The new government, like the outgoing one, is expected to include all the main parties. Talks over cabinet posts are expected to take time.
“Hariri is going to be further weakened in any kind of government going forward,” said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute. “His ability to substantially tame or restrain Hezbollah… in Lebanon is going to be very limited.”
Official results showed that Hezbollah, along with allied groups and individuals, secured at least 65 seats. The final results for Akkar district have yet to be announced.