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Hezbollah allies gain in Lebanon vote, underscoring Iran sway

The win has geopolitical implications because of concern in the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia about Iran's growing influence in the Middle East. Hariri would still have the largest Sunni bloc in parliament, facilitating his return as prime minister to form the next government despite the losses.

While Mr. Hariri appears to have mended his ties to the kingdom and its powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudis did not provide generous financial support for his campaign as they have in the past. "His ability to substantially tame or restrain Hezbollah is going to be very limited".

In a televised statement, Hariri said despite gains in Sidon, Tripoli, Beirut and Western Bekaa Valley, the Future Movement had only won 21 out of 128 parliamentary seats. Hezbollah has declared victory.

Both Hariri and the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, were expected to speak later in the day.

The results will dismay not only Saudi Arabia.

The polls were held under a new law based on proportional representation that's meant to more accurately reflect Lebanon's complex sectarian demographics.

"This is a new law and voters were not familiar with it, nor were the heads of polling stations", he said.

At the time of the speech, Nasrallah of Lebanon, the CEC has not yet announced the final results of the election held on may 6, 2018, for the first time in the last nine years.

Consistent with the "nationwide pact" relationship from independence in 1943, the president should be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite.

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

Three tactics were used by Hezbollah and its allies to wipe out once and for all the movement that opposed them.

Turnout was more than 49.2%, down from the already disappointing 54.8% recorded in 2009.

Wissam Shqifi, 44, another Hezbollah critic, said the group's intervention in Syria "is an aggression on another country".

According to early results, only two independent candidates appear to have been elected in Beirut.

The number of Hezbollah lawmakers in the 128-seat parliament may not increase but astute pre-electoral tactics have secured it enough allies to withstand political challenges on strategic issues. But Hariri will be further constrained in what he can do by Hezbollah, said analysts, which will complicate Western policy toward Lebanon, a recipient of major US and European aid. However, the assessments in Lebanon are that Hariri has the best chance of forming a government.

Hundreds of its fighters have been killed and wounded while fighting in Syria, an intervention that Hezbollah says was necessary to protect Lebanon from the Sunni militants that proliferated across the border in the chaos of Syria's civil war.

A member of the Israeli government said that the preliminary results confirmed the Israeli government's perception; that Lebanon and Hezbollah were equals.

Branded a terrorist group by the United States, heavily armed Shi'ite Hezbollah has grown in strength since joining the war in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad in 2012.



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