Hezbollah and its allies are set to lose their majority in Parliament, according to the preliminary results of Sunday’s legislative elections handled by the Lebanese press. The painstaking scrutiny of the Ministry of the Interior continued to yield partial data on Monday afternoon from the constituencies where the vote count had already been completed. While the so-called Party of God has firmly resisted and retains its seats in traditional fiefdoms on the outskirts of Beirut and in the south of the country, its Shiite Muslim partners of Amal, the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, and the Maronite Christians of the Patriotic Movement Libre, led by the head of state, Michel Aoun, have apparently regressed compared to the 2018 elections. Then, with a majority of 71 of the 128 seats in the Chamber, they supported the pro-Iranian drift of the heterogeneous Mediterranean country. Three years after the outbreak of the biggest political and economic crisis since the bloody civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990), voters have now turned their backs on the sectarian party system with an abstention rate of 59%, eight points more than in the previous elections.
From the setback suffered by the Hezbollah bloc, a heavily armed militia-party that constitutes a state within the state, no consistent alternative front has emerged, however. The Lebanese Forces (LF), a far-right Christian movement linked to the extremist Phalanxes of the civil war, seem to have been the main beneficiaries of the retreat of the Sunni Muslim parties, forced by the withdrawal of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s policy. Like the Sunni forces, FL also sides with Saudi Arabia in the regional power dispute it is waging against Iran on the Lebanese political scene.
Apart from the opposing blocs that polarize Lebanese society, a few independent candidates – at least five, according to Reuters estimates – have been able to overcome the pitfalls of an electoral law that favors historical religious and ethnic formations to obtain a seat. These are new leaders emerging from the 2019 youth protests against a corrupt and ineffective regime. The explosion that devastated the port of Beirut in 2020, with a balance of more than 200 deaths and 5,000 million euros in material damage, has been the emblem of the mobilization of young voters in the cities to try to reinvent a country that only offers emigration as an alternative to poverty. 63% of Lebanese between the ages of 18 and 30 acknowledge that they are thinking of leaving the country.
The provisional and partial results of the legislative ones anticipate a prolonged political blockade to elect, first, a president of Parliament, a position that corresponds to a deputy from the Shiite community, according to the Taif agreements (Saudi Arabia), which put an end to the civil war. Then a complex consensus will have to be forged to invest a necessarily Sunni prime minister. Without a stable government made up of ministers with a qualified technical profile, the international community and the International Monetary Fund They have already warned that they will not carry out the massive aid programs approved to rescue the Lebanese economy from a crisis that has plunged 80% of the population below the poverty line. Finally, the new Legislative Assembly, predictably even more fragmented than the outgoing one, will have to appoint the president of the nation who will relieve Aoun in the fall, a position reserved for a Maronite Christian.
One of the biggest upheavals suffered by the bloc that supports Hezbollah has been the departure from Parliament of the historical Druze leader (a religious minority in the Middle East) in the district of Mount Lebanon, Talal Arslan, who has not been able to revalidate the seat he has held since three decades ago. Environmentalist leader Marc Daou, a university professor who led street protests in the tahura (Revolt) in Beirut in the fall of 2019, has taken away the deputy act in that constituency of the capital’s metropolitan area.
Lebanese Forces, emerging Christian party
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Lebanese Forces, the formation that has grown the most since the last elections, going from 15 to at least 20 deputies, now leads the rejection of Hezbollah’s hegemony between the Sunni and Christian sectors, and aspires to displace the president’s party Aoun as a reference force among the Maronites. “We are going to stand up to Hezbollah and impose its disarmament,” warned the Lebanese Forces candidate Michel Fallah, a 41-year-old lawyer, while campaigning on election day in the Christian district of Ashrafiye, in the center of Beirut. Surrounded by bodyguards from the Christian far right, Fallah also received the support of Sunni voters opposed to the Shia power of the Party of God.
Militiamen linked to the Christian Phalanxes and the Lebanese Forces were involved in 1982, in the midst of the civil war, in the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Shabra and Shatila refugee camps, on the outskirts of Beirut, to the indifference of the Army of Israel, which then occupied Lebanon. Last October, Amal and Hezbollah accused Lebanese Forces gunmen of the shooting near Beirut that killed seven Shiite militants on their way to a demonstration, in one of the most violent incidents between rival groups since the end of the civil war. .
Lebanon is already a failed state, as declared by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Severe Poverty, Olivier De Schutter, who blames the country’s political and financial elite for the bankruptcy. “Impunity, corruption and inequality have led to a venal political and economic system,” warned this independent expert, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.
The multimillionaire Nayib Mikati, who managed to form a government last September after 13 months of chaos, will presumably head the government. Mikati had previously served as prime minister in 2005 and from 2011 to 2014. It embodies the patronage model of power sharing that has led to the ruin and misrule of Lebanon. He is also one of the richest Lebanese, having sold his telecommunications company in 2005 for 4.65 billion euros. The pound, the national currency, has lost more than 90% of its value against the dollar in the last three years and inflation has soared above 200%. Meanwhile, the currency savings of the Lebanese remain blocked in the banks, in an endless corral that only allows up to 200 euros per month to be withdrawn from ATMs.