Hezbollah has gained political ground in Lebanon and consolidated Iran’s influence on the fragile state’s affairs after winning, along with its allies, a small majority in national elections. The Shia militia-cum-political bloc’s gains came at the expense of the Sunni prime minister, Saad Hariri, whose authority was weakened by a relatively poor showing in stronghold areas. Many of Hariri’s traditional supporters appear to have stayed at home on Sunday for the first parliamentary vote in nine years. His patron, Saudi Arabia, cut Hariri adrift in November and remained disengaged in the lead-up to the vote. It offered no immediate reaction to the result. Hariri’s bloc, the Future Movement, lost one-third of its seats, and he blamed a “scheme” to “eliminate” it from the political process when speaking on Monday.
The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said the party’s goals had been achieved by the ballot, which has put it in a strong position for post-election negotiations that apportion ministries and control over state institutions. Despite pre-poll hopes that a civil society movement could break through into Lebanese politics, only one candidate was thought to have been elected.
A feminist candidate, Joumana Haddad, was contesting the result that saw her narrowly lose out on becoming a second voice in a grassroots movement that had planned to challenge a political class dominated by former civil war figures and their scions.
Hezbollah had been a dominant player in Lebanon before the election and its improved showing now comes at a time of heightened regional tensions between its patron, Iran, and arch foe, Israel, which in reaction to the result claimed there was no distinction between the party and state.