Iran-backed Hezbollah Declares 'Victory' in Lebanon's Parliamentary Election

Saad and the late Rafiq al-Hariri

The Iran-backed Hezbollah and its political allies has won more than half the seats in Lebanon's first parliamentary election in nine years, according to unofficial preliminary results.

An Israeli minister said the outcome, which has yet to be confirmed by official results, showed the Lebanese state was indistinguishable from Hezbollah, signalling the risk of Israel hitting Lebanon's government in a future war.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called the vote "a great political and moral victory for the resistance option that protects the sovereignty of the country".

Lebanon's first national elections in nine years were marked by a tepid turnout Sunday, reflecting voter frustration over endemic corruption and a stagnant economy.

A coalition constituting Hezbollah and allied parties - including Amal, another Shiite party, and the Free Patriotic Movement, the country's largest Christian party - is poised to capture a majority of the seats in Lebanon's parliament according to preliminary results reported on Monday.

Though having enjoyed relative peace due to the delicate political balance reached among the Christians, Muslims and the Hezbollah since the 1975-1990 civil war, Lebanon has always been ruled by traditional powers including previous warlords and influential families. Civil society-based reformers in Lebanon had hoped a new voting system partly based on proportional representation and introduced for the election would herald a major political shake-up and start a breakup of Lebanon's decades-old sectarian politics, which is based on a power-sharing arrangement involving the different religious elites. Talks over Cabinet posts are expected to take time. They campaigned on firebrand Lebanese Christian nationalism, saying that they were opposed to the arms of Hezbollah, noting that arms ought to be only in the hands of the state, and were highly critical of Hezbollah's intervention in the Syrian conflict, saying it had attracted ISIS and other jihadi groups into the country.

But Hezbollah lost ground in one of its strongholds, the Baalbek-Hermel constituency, where it lost two of 10 seats, one of them to Lebanese Forces.

The Hezbollah group is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, while the European Union lists Hezbollah's military wing as terrorist, differentiating between its military and political activities.

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On Sunday, many youngsters at polling stations said they hoped the election would mark the dawn of a new political era.

Among the Christians, the right-wing Lebanese Forces party did particularly well, appearing to nearly double its number of seats from eight to 15.

Samir Geagea, the Lebanese Forces leader, said the results showed there was a "popular ground" that backs March 14 and would "give us strength and a push to fix the path much more than we were able to in the past years". But he acknowledged that his "Future Movement", Hezbollah's main rival, was losing a third of its seats. Hardcore Syrian allies that were elected on Sunday include former security chief Jamil Sayyed, former deputy parliament speaker Elie Firzly and former Defence Minister Abdul-Rahim Murad.

Voter turnout in this year's election was at 49.2 percent, down from 54 percent in 2009.

Aoun said the preferential vote was necessary as voters would likely prefer some candidates on the list to others.

Almost every Lebanese person CNN spoke to before the election said they had little hope in politicians' ability to tackle the country's litany of economic and security woes. That, along with the new electoral law, injected some unpredictability to the process.

"The problem with this election was a lot of people didn't understand it", he said.

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