Lebanon’s Elections Result: A Political Blockade
Lebanon’s recent elections leave Hezbollah without a parliamentary majority. The parliament is now split into several camps, none of which have a majority, raising the prospect of the political blockade that could delay much-needed reforms to steer Lebanon out of its economic collapse.
“Unlike the situation in parliament in 2018, no political group can claim a majority”, the leader of Lebanon’s Shia group Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah and its allies have scored 62 seats of the 128 seats (three fewer than needed) during Sunday 15 polls, losing a majority they secured in 2018 when they and their allies won 71 seats.
Nevertheless, Nasrallah has declared the results “a very big victory” and has called for “cooperation” between political groups. If not, the alternative would be “chaos and vacuum”, in his own words, as TRTWorld describes.
In these elections, the Hezbollah-led bloc in parliament with the Free Patriotic Movement and the Shia Amal movement have lost or maintained their seats. The first one has won 17 seats, down from 20 in the outgoing parliament, while Amal’s candidates have held on to the 27 seats.
The rival Christian party with close ties to Saudi Arabia, the Lebanese Forces, has won 19 seats, up from 15, making it the biggest Christian party, and independent or “change forces” candidates promising reforms have won 13 seats.
The backdrop of the elections
Backed by Iran, Hezbollah is a major political and military force, described by its supporters as a bulwark against its enemy Israel, and by its detractors, as a state within a state whose continued existence prevents any kind of democratic change in Lebanon. It is considered a “terrorist” organization by many Western countries, it is the only organization to have kept its weapons following the 1975-1990 civil war.
These elections have been the first held since a 2019 nationwide uprising against a political elite seen as corrupt and ineffective. The mass protests were sparked by the start of one of the worst economic depressions the world has seen in more than 150 years. Now, about 80% of Lebanon’s population live in poverty, and there have been severe shortages of food, fuel, and medicines, the BBC describes.
To this, the Covid pandemic and the explosion at Beirut’s port in 2020 that killed more than 200 people and the investigation which has been stalled repeatedly, have added to the woes.
Little political change to be seen
Sunday’s elections will most likely not bring big changes to the country. While Hezbollah will still be hugely influential in the new parliament, the country faces a more divided parliament between two main blocs: the Iran-backed Shia Hezbollah group and its allies and the Lebanese Forces and its partners.
This division has made analysts voice fears that the election outcome would plunge Lebanon into a prolonged political vacuum similar to that in Iraq, where rival factions have failed to form a new government since last October’s elections, where Iranian supported parties suffered a setback, explains Al Arabiya English.
The political blockade is where the country is headed because “for the first time since independence, the Lebanese political system has provided access to non-confessionally affiliated political groups and independent candidates. This reflects the deepening crisis of confessionalism and its corresponding political economy that has paved the way for a growing dissent,” Dr. Imad Salamey told Al Arabiya English.
Some analysts wonder if Hezbollah will be open to confrontation or choose to navigate its way through negotiations and limited concessions. “This will be first unraveled in a new government formation, which is unlikely to be achieved before the presidential election, which is another critical battleground. Given all odds, I believe Iran and allies will choose political vacuum over making concessions,” Salamey added.
Be as it may be, the future scenario will have polarized forces that will find it difficult to cooperate to form a new government and pass the laws needed to achieve economic recovery.