Lebanese vote in first general election in nine years


West-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Future Movement suffered losses, said preliminary and unofficial results that came out in the Lebanese media on Monday, May 7. They also won in the second quarter of Beirut, the Lebanese capital, and in three municipalities of the Beqaa governorate.

Mr. Hariri has always been close to Saudi Arabia, although that relationship has been under strain since a weird episode previous year when he was summoned to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and forced to announce his resignation.

As a result, Hariri's team only got five out of 11 seats in Beirut, with four going to Hezbollah allies, one to the Social Progressive Party of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, and one to a notable newcomer, independent Beiruti millionaire Fouad Makhzoumi. Hariri's bloc lost a third of its seats, but he is likely to remain prime minister because of Lebanon's sectarian political system.

Though complaining about the "complicated" political system and diverged opinions in this small but religious diverse country, Hejazi said she still hoped this election would bring about some new changes. He is tipped to retain the post despite losing control of parliament. "We are ready to work with. the government elected by the majority", Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state TV. They forced him to resign during a visit to Saudi Arabia last November, amid speculation that he was kidnapped and forced to step down against his will.

In Hezbollah strongholds in southern Beirut, there was a steady flow of voters.

More than 3.7 million Lebanese are eligible to vote, and will chose from 597 candidates who are running on 77 closed lists for a seat in the 128-strong parliament.

This year's election featured active participation of young voters, estimated at 800,000, who hoped for a major change to the status quo.

To ensure the fairness of the election and prevent voting fraud, Lebanon has invited the European Union (EU) and the US -based National Democratic Institute to monitor the voting on Sunday.

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"This will make the strength of Hezbollah at the very end". In Hariri's native Sidon, for example, it stood at a measly 32% whereas, in Tripoli, it was only 28%.

The group, whose arsenal outguns the army's does not derive its dominant status on the Lebanese scene from the ballot box but the new breakdown of parliament will increase its political legitimacy.

Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group by the USA, but its political wing has long held seats in Lebanon's parliament and is part of Lebanon's outgoing coalition government.

Hezbollah members were accused over the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father Rafiq, a charismatic former prime minister. But Hezbollah does not formally divide itself into armed and political wings.

Earlier in the day, Lebanese President Michel Aoun tweeted: "I was surprised by the low turnout and the exercise of the right to vote". The war has divided the country, pitting parties supporting the Iran-sponsored Hezbollah's intervention in Syria to aid President Bashar Assad against Saudi-aligned parties opposed to it.

The election results are a shock to all stakeholders, especially to Israel.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that the results of the Lebanese election "strengthen what has been our approach for a while: Hezbollah=Lebanon". "This is a democratic wedding, and as we said from the start, congratulations to whoever wins tonight", Machnouk, the interior minister who was a candidate on Hariri's list, said after casting his ballot in Beirut.