Lebanon even closer to Teheran after parliamentary elections

Lebanon even closer to Teheran after parliamentary elections

Monica Mazza | Agenzia Nova
The election results show the strategic direction that Lebanon has been taking since the end of 2016. From that moment on, the country has progressively strengthened its institutions and made a timid attempt at relaunching the economy

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The latest data on the results of the Lebanese parliamentary elections, the first in nine years, clearly confirm the supremacy of the pro-Iranian party Hezbollah to the detriment of the Sunni, pro-Saudi formation led by the Prime Minister, Saad Hariri. Voting took place in a relatively peaceful climate, apart from a few isolated incidents of tension outside the polls. Hariri’s Sunni party Al Mustaqbal (Future) has lost a third of its seats, winning only 19 of the 128 seats in Parliament. It is, however, still likely to be at the helm of the future Lebanese cabinet. On the Sunni political scene there are no prominent figures able to call into question Hariri’s supremacy. The winners of the first elections held applying the proportional representation system are the Shiite parties, which have won 40 seats in Parliament. Thanks to the results of the Maronite Christians of the Free Patriotic Movement headed by the President, Michel Aoun, the March 8 Alliance, which includes Hezbollah, can count on a majority of 69 out of 128 seats.

The process to relaunch the country continues

The election results show the strategic direction that Lebanon has been taking since the end of 2016, when the President of the Republic became Michel Aoun, who happens to be linked precisely to the March 8 Alliance to which the "Party of God" belongs.  It was, indeed, this Christian-Shiite accord that enabled the country to break its institutional deadlock, and also appoint Hariri, a rich businessman connected with the Al Sa’ud family of Saudi Arabia. 2017 was an important year for the Country of Cedars, distinguished by the progressive strengthening of its institutions and a timid attempt at relaunching the economy. Last year, in fact, saw the approval of a new election law, contracts were assigned for the exploration of energy sources and a budget law was approved. However, in November of the same year, the resignation – later withdrawn – of Hariri from Riyadh shocked Lebanon, prompting it, in the end, to take its distance from Saudi Arabia. These are the Lebanese dynamics that form the backdrop to the election results of 6 May 2018.

Constant attention to the economic-social situation is needed

Lebanon’s policy of distancing itself from regional conflicts, which became a mantra after Hariri announced his resignation from Riyadh, probably did not fully convince the Lebanese electorate. Those who went to vote have launched a two-fold message to the establishment: disinterest in politics, lack of attention towards the country’s real situation; protest against the economic-social situation, further aggravated by over one and a half million Syrian refugees sheltering in Lebanon. It was probably Hariri’s electorate that failed to vote, discouraged by the decisions taken by the Prime Minister over the past months. The supporters of the Shiite parties, on the other hand, may well have “boosted” the results achieved by the Hezbollah militia alongside the Syrian Armed Forces against Islamic State. In actual fact, last summer the pro-Iranian militia freed the Valle della Bekaa – on the border with Syria – of terrorists, before Lebanon’s regular army stepped in. On an international scale, Israel expressed its concern for the results of the elections, especially in the light of Teheran’s threats to strike Tel Aviv in retaliation for the Israeli raids on Syria. The imminent challenge remains that of forming a government speedily in order to avoid wasting precious time which could thwart the efforts made by the international community to relaunch the economy and support the Armed Forces during the three conferences of Rome, Paris and Brussels.