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Hezbollah, Allies Lose Gov't Majority  05/17 06:12


   BEIRUT (AP) -- Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group and its allies lost their 
parliamentary majority, while more than a dozen independents gained seats, 
according to final tally released Tuesday. The results signal a significant 
shift in country gripped by a devastating financial meltdown.

   The Hezbollah-led coalition won 61 seats in the 128-member legislature, a 
drop of 10 members since the last vote was held four years ago. The loss was 
largely due to setbacks suffered by the group's political partners, and was not 
expected to weaken the Iran-backed group's domination of Lebanese politics. All 
13 Hezbollah candidates who ran got elected.

   Still, the results were hailed as a breakthrough for groups opposed to 
Hezbollah and the country's other mainstream political parties blamed for the 
collapse, introducing more new independent faces than was expected.

   Hezbollah's most vocal opponents, the nationalist Christian Lebanese Forces 
party, emerged as the biggest winner, while its Christian rival, the Free 
Patriotic Movement founded by President Michel Aoun, suffered a political 

   Though Christian, the Free Patriotic Movement is an ally of the Shiite 
Muslim Hezbollah. The Lebanese Forces now has the largest bloc in parliament 
with 19 seats, overtaking the Free Patriotic Movement, which now holds 17 
seats, a drop of three seats from the previous vote.

   Despite the setback, Hezbollah and its main Shiite ally, the Amal group of 
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, retained the 27 seats allocated to the Shiite 

   Independents and newcomers, including those from the 2019 protest movement, 
scooped 14 seats. That was a major achievement considering they went into the 
vote fragmented and facing intimidation and threats by entrenched mainstream 

   Their showing sends a strong message to ruling class politicians who have 
for decades held on to their seats and despite an economic meltdown that has 
impoverished the country and triggered the biggest wave of emigration since the 
1975-90 civil war.

   "The results show that the Lebanese mood is against this ruling class and is 
also against the political alignment with Iran," said Lebanese Forces official 
Wissam Raji. "The Lebanese know that the situation has become disastrous and 
the solution is not in the hands of the ruling class."

   "The solution lies in radical change in the political map of Lebanon at all 
levels," Raji said.

   The results also portend a sharply polarized parliament, divided between pro 
and anti-Hezbollah lawmakers who will find it difficult to work together to 
form a new government and pass laws needed to to enact reforms for a financial 
recovery in Lebanon.

   With two main blocs -- Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces -- opposed to each 
other, analysts said the results could lead to more paralysis at a time when 
the country desperately needs unity.

   The spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General, Stephane Dujarric, called for 
the "swift formation of an inclusive government" that can finalize an agreement 
with the International Monetary Fund and accelerate the implementation of 
reforms necessary to set Lebanon on the path to recovery.

   The U.N. urged "the new Parliament to urgently adopt all legislation 
necessary to stabilize the economy and improve governance," Dujarric said.

   The biggest loss came to Hezbollah's allies with close links to Syrian 
President Bashar Assad's government, including deputy parliament speaker Elie 
Ferzli, Druze politician Talal Arslan who had held a seat for three decades, 
Asaad Hardan and Faisal Karami, son of late Premier Omar Karami.

   Sunday's parliamentary elections were the first since Lebanon's economic 
meltdown began in late 2019. The government's factions have done virtually 
nothing to address the collapse, leaving Lebanese to fend for themselves as 
they plunge into poverty, without electricity, medicine, garbage collection or 
any other semblance of normal life.

   The vote is also the first since a deadly explosion at Beirut's port in 
August 2020 that killed more than 200, wounded thousands and damaged parts of 
the capital.

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