Lebanon's PM Hariri: New electoral law allowed parties to commit violations

Open SocietyGay and women's rights are remarkably a part of Lebanon's elections

"In any war with Israel, Hezbollah now is sure it controls state institutions, whether it is the government or the parliament", said Sami Nader, head of the Levant Institute for Strategic Studies.

Lebanese voted in their first General Election for nine years on Sunday, with the Tehran-backed Hezbollah group and its allies expecting to emerge stronger, a result that would affirm Iran's regional ascendancy from its own borders to the Mediterranean.

Current Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri caused a significant political crisis in November, when he fled the country for Saudi Arabia, announcing his resignation in a televised address in which he said he feared an assassination attempt.

Hariri blamed Sunday's low 49.2 per cent voter turnout on people's lack of understanding of the new electoral law, which for the first time establishes a proportional system with preferential voting and gives the right to vote to Lebanese people overseas. But they will not win the two-thirds majority that would allow them to pass big decisions such as changing the constitution.

Lebanon's Hizbollah paramilitary movement emerged as the main victor in the country's first election in nearly a decade, securing veto power in the Lebanese Parliament as the prime minister's fortunes fell. The hardline Tasnim news agency ran a report headlined: "Lebanese election result puts an end to Hariri's monopoly among Sunnis".

Enhanced Hezbollah sway over Lebanon will likely alarm the United States, which arms and trains the Lebanese army.

The election was held under that law adopted previous year, which was expected to give Hezbollah a majority in parliament.

Hezbollah's allies include the Shi'ite Amal Movement led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, the Christian Free Patriotic Movement established by President Michel Aoun and others that view its weapons as an asset to Lebanon. However, they are set to lose a few of their 27 seats and this is mostly down proportional representation.

A preliminary reading of the results showed the Christian Lebanese Forces, which is anti-Hezbollah, had doubled its number of MPs from eight to 16, making it the party with the biggest gain in seats in the election.

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"Even if Hezbollah is not a victor in terms of seats, then it will have a more dispersed and scattered parliament that is easier to navigate than ever before", Bahout said.

Hezbollah lost two seats in the Baalbek-Hermel constituency.

"We hope we will open a new era", said Mahmoud Daouk, voting in Beirut in one of the areas where new faces were taking on the old sectarian elite. It was not until 9 p.m. on Monday that it began to enumerate elected deputies in absence of final tally of votes in norrn region of Akkar.

The drop came despite a reformulated electoral law created to encourage voting through proportional representation.

Recall that Hezbollah, since 2011 actively involved in the Syrian civil war on the side of Assad, is considered a terrorist organization in Israel, USA, Canada, and also in many Arab countries.

At regional level, provisional results of generals promise to lift more than one blister.

Lebanon has a long history of power-sharing, involving different religious denominations, in the country's political system.

Israel has warned that "Hezbollah equals Lebanon" following the election success of the Iran-backed Shia Islamist group in the country's election.

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