Lebanon election: Hezbollah leader declares 'victory'

Lebanon election: Hezbollah leader declares 'victory'”

Civil society-based reformers in Lebanon had hoped a new voting system partly based on proportional representation and introduced for the election would herald a major political shake-up and start a breakup of Lebanon's decades-old sectarian politics, which is based on a power-sharing arrangement involving the different religious elites.

Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk announced the turnout figure at a news conference shortly after midnight and appeared to blame it on the new electoral law agreed previous year.

Machnouk said "congratulations to all those who won in the elections", adding that the new parliament will convene on May 20. In May 2013, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah began openly sending its fighters to back Assad and since then has taken part in nearly every major battle in the country.

Foreign Minister Jubran Bassil, Aoun's son-in-law who heads the president's Free Patriotic Movement, said his group won 29 seats alone.

Hariri has served as prime minister twice: from 2009-11 and from December 2016 until now.

Hariri lost to Hezbollah and Amal-backed Sunni candidates in his party's strongholds of Beirut, Saida and Tripoli.

Despite losing a third of his bloc's seats in Sunday's parliamentary election, Saad Hariri is likely to remain prime minister because of the country's sectarian political system.

'Hezbollah = Lebanon, ' Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a rightist in the Israel's conservative coalition government, said on Twitter on Monday.

Hezbollah has gained political ground in Lebanon and consolidated Iran's influence on the fragile state's affairs after winning, along with its allies, a small majority in national elections. We must settle our disagreements, even strategic ones.

Joumana Haddad, a novelist and candidate on the independent Kulna Watani list was forecast to win but TV channels stopped reporting her victory on Monday, AP reported.

To ensure the fairness of the election and prevent voting fraud, Lebanon has invited the European Union (EU) and the USA -based National Democratic Institute to monitor the voting on Sunday. The army ordered the media to turn off their cameras.

"From the beginning, we aimed for a large presence in parliament, first of all, to ensure political protection of the [Hezbollah] resistance".

Hezbollah, along with its political allies, secured at least 67 seats of the 128 in parliament, according to projections, while the Future Movement secured only 21.

"The biggest swing vote will be President Aoun's group, which will move among the other blocs".

The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said the party's goals had been achieved by the ballot, which has put it in a strong position for post-election negotiations that apportion ministries and control over state institutions.

"My hand is extended to every Lebanese who participated in the elections to preserve stability and create jobs", Hariri said in a televised statement.

"Hariri's loss will be the distinguishing mark of these elections, which will have consequences on the battle to form a new government", the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar daily wrote earlier on Monday.

"We love the resistance", Amira Sidani, 85, said after casting her ballot.

Hezbollah had been a dominant player in Lebanon before the election and its improved showing now comes at a time of heightened regional tensions between its patron, Iran, and arch foe, Israel, which in reaction to the result claimed there was no distinction between the party and state.

The election results show that Sunni voters are losing faith in Hariri's party amid a stagnant economy and general exasperation over the war in neighbouring Syria that has brought one million refugees to Lebanon. It is the first such alliance between a major Maronite Christian and Shia political parties in Lebanon's history.

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