Hezbollah loses some allies in Lebanon parliamentary polls

Hezbollah loses some allies in Lebanon parliamentary polls

Lebanese electoral staff start counting votes at a polling station in the northern coastal city of Batroun on May 15, 2022. IBRAHIM CHALHOUB AFP BEIRUT - Hezbollah has been dealt a blow in Lebanon's parliamentary election, with preliminary results showing losses for some of its oldest allies and the Lebanese Forces party saying it had gained seats.

The final make-up of the 128 member parliament has yet to emerge, with votes still being counted. When Lebanon voted in 2018, the heavily armed Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah and its allies won a majority of 71 seats.

The World Bank blamed Lebanon's economic meltdown on ruling politicians after a huge port explosion in 2020 that shattered Beirut.

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One of the most startling upsets was the election of Hezbollah-allied Druze politician Talal Arslan, who was elected first in 1992, who lost his seat to Mark Daou, a newcomer to a reform agenda, according to the campaign manager and Hezbollah official.

The initial results showed wins for at least five other independents who campaigned for a platform of reform and brought to account politicians blamed for launching Lebanon into the worst crisis since its 1975 -- 90 civil war.

Whether Hezbollah and its allies can hold onto a majority depends on results not yet finalised, including those in Sunni Muslim seats contested by allies and opponents of the Shi'ite movement.

Gains reported by the Lebanese Forces, which are vehemently opposed to Hezbollah, mean it would overtake the Hezbollah-allied Free Patriotic Movement as the biggest Christian party in parliament.

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The head of the press office, Antoinette Geagea, said that the LF won 20 seats, up from 15 in 2018, up from 15 in 2018.

The FPM had won 16 seats, down from 18 in 2018, said Sayed Younes, head of the electoral machine, told Reuters.

Since its founder, President Michel Aoun, returned to exile in France in 2005, the FPM has been the biggest Christian party in parliament. Aoun and LF leader Samir Geagea were adversaries of civil war.

The LF, which was established as a militia during Lebanon's 15 year civil war, has repeatedly called for Hezbollah to give up its arsenal.

An opposition candidate also made a breakthrough in an area of southern Lebanon dominated by Hezbollah.

Lebanese voters check their names on electoral lists during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Beirut on May 15, 2022. ANWAR AMRO AFP Elias Jradi, an eye doctor, won an Orthodox Christian seat previously held by Assaad Hardan of the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, a close Hezbollah ally and MP since 1992, two Hezbollah officials said.

Nadim Houry, executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative, said the results of 14 or 15 seats would determine the majority.

He said there were going to be two blocs opposed to each other - on the one hand Hezbollah and its allies, and on the other hand the Lebanese Forces and its allies, and in the middle these new voices that will enter.

This is a big loss for the FPM. They have a bloc but they lost a lot of seats and the biggest beneficiary is the Lebanese Forces. Samir Geagea has emerged as a new Christian strongman. In a process that can take months, the next parliament must nominate a prime minister to form a cabinet. Any delay would hold up reforms to deal with the crisis and unlock support from the International Monetary Fund and donor nations.