Middle East

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BEIRUT: Hezbollah and their allies in Lebanon are set to lose their parliamentary majority after voters delivered a stunning rejection of the country’s corrupt political elite.

Election results showed major wins for non-traditional political forces since the polls closed at 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Vote counting is continuing after Sunday’s election and full results are not expected until Tuesday, but the Iran-backed group admitted on Monday they were unlikely to obtain 64 of parliament’s 128 seats. At the last election in 2018 they won 71.

Among the high-profile losers was leading Hezbollah ally and deputy parliament speaker Elie Ferzli, 72, who was ousted by a candidate backed by Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. Hezbollah-allied Druze politician Talal Arslan also lost his seat.

Anti-Hezbollah groups including Lebanese Forces and reformist independent candidates scored significant wins. LF said they had won 22 seats, up from 15 in 2018. This would enable them to overtake the Free Patriotic Movement led by controversial former minister Gebran Bassil, which won 16 seats, down from 18 in 2018.

Turnout inside Lebanon exceeded 40 percent, lower than the 45 percent at the 2018 elections.

Despite recent weeks of sectarian incitement and irregularities and chaos prevailing in some polling stations and counting operations, the popular mood showed a rejection of the traditional forces that rule the country in light of the crippling economic and financial crisis that has impoverished more than 80 percent of the people.

Hezbollah and the Amal Movement reacted to the polls closing with premature celebrations in the northern Bekaa region, interspersed with shooting and even rocket-propelled grenades.

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The two parties forced their voters to go to the polls, but were surprised to learn that more than 4,000 spoiled ballots were found inside the boxes, indicating that some voters preferred to distort their election papers instead of voting for the Shiite duo.

More surprises followed, with Lebanese Forces candidate, Antoine Habashi (Maronite), penetrating the list of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement and reserving a seat for him in the new parliament.

The candidate for the Greek Orthodox seat, Elias Jaradi, managed to break the list of the Shiite duo and win the seat that had been won for decades by the representative of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, an ally of Hezbollah, Asaad Hardan.

The candidate of the Forces for Change, Firas Hamdan, was also able to enter the same list and win the Druze seat instead of the banker Marwan Khair Al-Din, who was nominated by the Shiite duo on their list.

The absence of the Future Movement from the electoral arena was evident in the results of Sunday’s elections.

The vote share of the Future Movement was captured by the Shiite and the Free Patriotic Movement parties, the Forces for Change, MP Fouad Makhzoumi and other figures who have a popular presence on the scene.

This sharing appeared in Beirut, Tripoli and Akkar, despite figures opposed to Hezbollah reaching the parliamentary symposium, according to unconfirmed results.

Ibrahim Mneimneh, 46, an architect, who initially won one of the Sunni seats in Beirut’s second district, told Arab News that “the way in which the Beirut elections were held confirmed that electoral money does not rule the people, and that sectarian mobilization and all the tools of political fraud failed resoundingly.”

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Mneimneh stressed that he has “no intention of voting for the re-election of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri again to head the parliament, nor for any of the symbols of authority.”

Physician Bilal Al-Hashimi won a Sunni seat in the Zahle district on the list of the Lebanese Forces and Rami Abu Hamdan won the Shiite seat in the district.

Al-Bizri, one of the personalities calling for change and whose father, MP Nazih Al-Bizri, was known for his integrity in parliament, told Arab News: “We have to work within the parliament to find a kind of alliance to confront the alliances of the political system and start real legislation and real control over the performance of political work.”

Other electoral surprises include the head of the Lebanese Democratic Party Talal Arslan losing his Druze seat, which he held for nearly 30 years in the Chouf-Aley district.

He is a close ally of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah. He lost the seat to Mark Daou, a prominent figure in the change groups and a member of the “United for Change” list. Hezbollah’s other ally, Wiam Wahhab, was unable to win a Druze seat.

In the Chouf-Aley district, two female candidates from the “United for Change” list managed to initially penetrate the Free Patriotic Movement’s list.

These two women had protested against the authority in downtown Beirut and had emerged in the media through their opposition to its corruption.

In the Christian community, the electoral battle was fierce between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces Party, with the latter winning 22 seats according to preliminary results, while the number of Free Patriotic Movement MPs decreased to 16.

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Lebanese Forces candidate Ghiath Yazbek (Maronite) won the largest share of votes in the third northern constituency with 9,350 votes, surpassing the MP of the region and head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gibran Bassil, who got 8,250 votes.

Delegates at the vote-counting center said that the ballot box and all 256 ballot papers were coded, which means that this box should be canceled.

There were protests outside the center and chants for the revolution, fearing that the initial results that had brought down the current deputy speaker of parliament, Elie Ferzli, would be reversed in favor of one of the opposition candidates.

Representatives from the electoral machines spoke of “pressure from very high authorities in the state on the registration committees in the western Bekaa to manipulate the results in order to secure the victory of Elie Ferzli.”

The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections confirmed in a report on Monday that there had been “flagrant violations during the electoral process and inaction by the Ministry of Interior in implementing the law in, as well as attacks against candidates, voters and delegates.”

The UN Special Coordinator in Lebanon Ioana Frontka took to Twitter to congratulate Lebanon for “holding the parliamentary elections on time.” She reminded them that


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