Hezbollah and its allies, including the Christian-led political party, Free Patriotic Movement, appear to have suffered losses in Lebanon’s elections on Sunday, with preliminary results pointing to a possible shift in leadership.
Despite the minor setback, Hezbollah and its Shiite allies – mainly the Amal group, led by Lebanese Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri – were expected to retain their 27 seats in parliament. However, it is still unclear whether they will be able to retain their overall majority in parliament. There was an estimated 41% voter turnout, compared to 49% last year.
This was the first Lebanese election since 2018, when the Iranian terrorist proxy organization Hezbollah and its Lebanese allies won 71 out of 128 seats , roughly 55%, in the Lebanese parliament.
Preliminary results Monday showed that some of Hezbollah’s strongest opponents had gained more seats. The Christian Lebanese Forces party, led by Samir Geagea and backed by Saudi Arabia, said it had won at least 20 seats – five more than in 2018.
The independent party gained at least 10 seats, which was hailed as “a major achievement considering they went into the vote fragmented and facing intimidation and threats by entrenched mainstream parties,” according to Bassem Mroue of the Associated Press.
Geagea on Sunday accused Hezbollah of replacing the ballots and manipulating the ballot boxes in some polling centers in Baalbek-Hermel and called on the government to send a special investigation committee to complete the counting of votes.
“Hezbollah’s Christian allies have lost the claim to represent the majority of Christians,” said Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center, referring to the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) founded in 2005 by former Lebanese President Michel Aoun. FPM was previously the largest Christian party in parliament.
Hage Ali described the gains of the Christian Lebanese Forces party, which is strongly opposed to Hezbollah, as a “major blow” to the Iranian proxy’s claim of having cross-sectarian support.
“If the deals of the past are dead, what kind of politics do we have apart from more sectarian tensions and a replay of some of the clashes we have seen?” he said, adding that the election results could “open the door for Sunni Muslim-led Saudi Arabia to exercise greater sway in a country that has long been an arena of its rivalry with Tehran.”
Gebran Bassil, the head of the FPM, is also at risk of losing his seat in parliament and was quick to blame the United States and Israel for his party’s poor election results.
According to The National News, Bassil stated that his party was not in a battle with Lebanese parties but in a fight that began on Oct. 17, 2019, when protests and demonstrations against Lebanon’s ruling classes spread across the country – demonstrations that he claimed were engineered by the U.S., Israel and “its allies.”
Several strong and long-time Hezbollah allies lost their seats to independents, including Asaad Hardan of the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, who lost his seat to Elias Jradi, an eye doctor. Jradi won an Orthodox Christian seat on the opposition-led list, “Together Towards Change.”
“It’s a new beginning for the south and for Lebanon as a whole,” Jradi said.
Another long-time Hezbollah-backed parliament member, Talal Arslan, lost his seat to new independent opposition candidate Mark Daou, the owner of an advertising company and a professor of media studies.
Preliminary results showed that Daou’s “Unity for Change” list won an additional two seats.
Reuters described Arslan’s loss as “startling” given that the Hezbollah-allied Druze politician is a scion of one of Lebanon’s oldest political dynasties. In addition, Arslan has been a member of the Lebanese parliament since 1992 and served as a long-time minister in no less than six governments.
With final votes still being counted, it remains to be seen whether the Lebanese election will result in a new kind of political framework for the ailing nation that’s been ravaged by a devastating economic crisis since 2019.
The 2020 Beirut port explosion that killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed parts of the city only compounded the situation further.
“Results declared point to a more fragmented parliament sharply polarized between allies and opponents of Hezbollah, an outcome analysts said could lead to deadlock as factions hash out a power-sharing deal over top state positions,” according to Reuters.