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Lebanon - Parliamentary Election 06 May 2018

Iran-backed Hezbollah made gains in parliamentary elections with the party of Prime Minister Saad Hariri losing seats. Ahead of the vote, a result with Hezbollah and its allies adding more seats while Hariri lost several was expected. Some of Hariri's Sunni supporters see him as being too soft on Hezbollah. Hariri likely would be named to form a national unity Cabinet. The rival sides are expected to re-create the unity government that currently exists, which includes Hezbollah.

The results credited Hariri's Future Movement with 21 of parliament’s 128 seats, a drop from the 33 it controlled in the outgoing legislature. Of the 3.8 million registered voters, 49.2 percent cast their ballots in Sunday's poll, the interior ministry said, down from 54 percent in the last election in 2009. The vote saw 583 candidates, including a record number of 86 women, compete for 128 seats in parliament: 64 allocated to Muslims and 64 to Christians.

Traditional political foes, the predominantly Sunni party Future Movement (FM), led by Saad Hariri, Lebanon's prime minister, and the Christian-Maronite Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), founded by President Michel Aoun and led by his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, the foreign minister, joined forces under one list: Zahle Lal Kil (Arabic for Zahle is Everybody's). On the other hand, FPM's close allies, Hezbollah and Amal, are running in a coalition of powerful local figures on a separate list, Zahle: Al Khayar wal Karar (Arabic for Zahle is the Choice and Decision).

Lebanon had not held a parliamentary election since 2009, for want of consensus on a new electoral law. This first parliamentary election in nine years, was the first test of a new electoral law that is supposed to give new candidates a better shot. The new electoral law redrew the country into 15 electoral districts, further entrenching Lebanon's foundational sectarian makeup, and introduced proportional representation. Under the terms of the new law, voters cast two votes, one for a list of candidates and one for a single preferred candidate.

The 06 May 2018 vote inaugurated a system of proportional representation whose proponents say it will help renew the country’s factional political class and better represent its multi-confessional society. As always, the election was closely watched by regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran, who had long competed for influence over Lebanese politics. While the country's delicate balance of power was unlikely to shift much, a smooth election would in itself be a considerable achievement.

Lebanon's political landscape shifted dramatically since the last election. Hariri's pro-Western, Saudi-backed political alliance split up. For the past year he led a power-sharing government which included the heavily armed, Iran-backed Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, despised by his Saudi allies.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation 04 November 2017, after delivering a blistering attack on Iran and its proxy militia, Hezbollah, both in Lebanon and across the region. The resignation followed consultations with Saudi Arabian leaders in Riyadh, and an earlier meeting with Iran’s top foreign policy adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, in Beirut. Commentators on Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV stressed that Hariri’s resignation speech was made from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and that it had “regional implications.”

Hariri accused Iran and its Lebanese proxy militia, Hezbollah, of creating discord in the country, as well as across the region. He says that outside parties, alluding to Iran, that wish ill on Lebanon have sown sectarian strife among the Lebanese, gaining control of the levers of power, and setting up a state-within-a-state. He also accused Iran of meddling in the internal affairs of other Arab states, including Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen.

Hariri went on to claim the political climate inside Lebanon resembled the one that prevailed in the months before his father, the late Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, was assassinated in February 2005, and that he sensed a “covert plot” against his own life. Arab and Lebanese media have long accused Hezbollah of killing the elder Hariri.

Observers did not think a new government would be formed any time soon and that Hariri’s government will continue to govern in a caretaker capacity for a long time. Top Lebanese officials claimed Riyadh forced him to quit and held he and his immediate family in the kingdom. Riyadh denied this.

Hariri appeared dead-set on rewriting the book of effective leadership by removing “decisiveness” from its contents, an intention made clear 22 November 2017 after he revoked his mysterious decision to resign as prime minister. The move came at the request of President Michel Aoun, and will hopefully defuse a crisis that pitted regional hegemon Saudi Arabia against world opinion. Hariri said all Lebanese must commit to keeping the country out of regional conflicts, a reference to the popular Hezbollah political party and militia, whom the Saudis accused of assisting the Houthi Ansarullah movement in Yemen.

The Saudi move to force the collapse of Lebanon's government appeared to have spectacularly backfired, instilling the various Lebanese factions with a spirit of national unity, with even Nasrallah calling for Hariri's safety and return despite the latter's accusations.

Lebanon's Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk on 15 December 2017 set up a long-delayed parliamentary election to be held under new rules for May 6. Lebanon set a date to hold its first legislative election in nearly a decade, potentially transforming the politics of a country caught in a confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The election has been postponed three times since the last vote in 2009, with politicians citing security concerns, political crisis and a dispute over the election law. Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri's coalition government, which took office a year earlier, agreed on the new election law in June 2017, but setting the date was held up while officials debated technical details and registered Lebanese citizens abroad.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon's Shia resistance movement Hezbollah, cautioned voters to beware "pro-U.S. candidates" in Lebanon's looming parliamentary elections. Addressing supporters 24 February 2018 in a live, televised speech in the city of Baalbek, Nasrallah urged the people of Lebanon to participate in the elections, scheduled for May 6. "Voters should consider national interests when picking candidates and voting for them," he said. "People should approach the upcoming legislative polls from the perspective of fulfilling responsibilities towards the country." The leader also issued a warning about candidates willing to compromise on oil reserves with Israel who might conspire against Hezbollah, or damage Lebanon's economy. "Your support for Hezbollah in the elections preserves the blood of martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the resistance movement," Nasrallah said.

When Lebanon held its Parliamentary election, almost one-fourth of the 128 seats were expected to be passed on from an older relative to another member of the family. Nineteen candidates were attempting to inherit the seats of their parents.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on 21 November 2018 the country no longer had the luxury of wasting time as a six-month government formation crisis drags on and economic pressures mount. More than six months since parliamentary elections, Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri had hit a wall in his effort to form a national unity government as political factions jostle for positions in the new cabinet. A new government must be in place before Lebanon embarks on major fiscal reform, which the International Monetary Fund said in June 2018 is urgently needed to put the country’s debt on a sustainable footing.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri announced?d 31 January 2019 that a new unity government had been created in Lebanon after nine months of talks. Hariri called the government formation a "last chance to settle things". The prime minister said at a press conference, which followed his meeting with the Lebanese president, "I am thankful to everyone who contributed to the achievement of our common goal… We have an extensive agenda ahead of us, we have to protect the economy and the interests of the [Lebanese] people." The Lebanese council of ministers announced that decrees on the appointment of a new government had been issued as well. "Decrees on the appointment of the Lebanese government under the chairmanship of the head of the council of ministers, Saad Hariri, have been issued," the council said.

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Page last modified: 04-09-2019 19:15:42 ZULU