Hezbollah and its Allies Win more than Half the Seats in Lebanon’s Parliament

Hezbollah and its Allies Win more than Half the Seats in Lebanon’s Parliament

Romany Shaker
14th May 2018 - FDD Policy Brief

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared a “great political and moral victory for the resistance” after his party and its allies secured their first-ever majority in Lebanon’s May 6 parliamentary election, the first in nine years. Hezbollah’s success at the polls helps to cement its dominant position in Lebanese politics while consolidating Iran’s influence over the state’s affairs. 

Together with its allies, including the Shiite Amal Movement led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and the Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) founded by President Michel Aoun, Hezbollah won 71 seats, or just over half of the 128 seats in parliament, up from 57 in 2009, according to the official results. Hezbollah-allied winners included Jamil al-Sayyed, a retired Shiite general and former Lebanese intelligence chief who has close ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Aside from al-Sayyed, Hezbollah brought a significant number of pro-Assad individuals, including both Sunnis and Christians, back into parliament.

The Future Movement led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri lost more than one-third of its strength, securing 21 seats, down from 33 in the 2009 election. Even so, Hariri may retain his role as prime minister, since Hezbollah already knows that he is a convenient figurehead who enabled them to expand their influence without triggering a cut-off of U.S. and European support to the Lebanese economy and armed forces. Now even weaker, Hariri may become even more pliable.

“The Future Movement was facing a project to eliminate it from political life,” Hariri said. Yet, he pledged to participate in securing “political stability.”

Lebanese Forces, an anti-Hezbollah Christian party led by Samir Geagea, doubled its representation from 8 to 15 seats. The elections also brought 78 new faces to parliament and a total of six female candidates, up from four in 2009, including independent candidate and TV presenter Paula Yacoubian

The turnout among Lebanon’s 3.6 million eligible voters was only 49.2 percent, down from 54 percent in 2009, signaling voters’ frustration over the country’s deeply sectarian politics. The election, in which expats were allowed to vote for the first time, was governed by a complex new electoral law, which combines district-based proportional representation with quotas for each religious group to maintain sectarian balance.

In reaction to the results, Israeli Minister Naftali Bennett said his country “will not differentiate between the sovereign State of Lebanon and Hezbollah,” and will hold the state responsible for Hezbollah’s actions. Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, said the people of Lebanon had sent a clear message of “No to the U.S. and Zionists,” while accusing the U.S. and Israel of “security roguery” to help “terrorists” in the Lebanese elections.

With its new political momentum, Hezbollah may try to secure official legitimacy for its extra-legal arsenal and armed forces while continuing its efforts to promote Iranian interests in the region. In response, the United States should enhance its cooperation with European and Arab allies to counter Hezbollah’s hostile activities and dry up the group’s sources of income, especially the illicit proceeds from its transnational criminal enterprises.

Romany Shaker is an Arabic-language research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @RomanySh.

Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Tags