lebanon win.jpgHezbollah and its political allies are the biggest winners in Lebanon’s first general election in nine years, an analysis of the preliminary results show.

Hezbollah and Amal – dubbed the “Shia duo” by local news media – are predicted to have won 29 seats in Lebanon’s 128-seat parliament during Sunday’s vote, according to unofficial tallies cited by politicians and local media reports. More than 11 seats are predicted to have been won by other political parties aligned with the duo. Saad Hariri’s bloc, the Future Movement, lost one-third of its seats, and he blamed a “scheme” to “eliminate” it from the political process when speaking on Monday.

The long-awaited elections were marked by a voter turnout of just under 50 percent, down from 54 percent in the last legislative election in 2009, Nouhad Machnouk, Lebanon’s interior minister, said on Monday.

The Shia militia-cum-political bloc’s gains came at the expense of the Sunni prime minister, Saad Hariri, whose authority was weakened by a relatively poor showing in stronghold areas. The Guardian reports that many of Hariri’s traditional supporters appear to have stayed at home on Sunday for the first parliamentary vote in nine years. His patron, Saudi Arabia, in November and remained disengaged in the lead-up to the vote. It offered no immediate reaction to the result.

The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said the party’s goals had been achieved by the ballot, which has put it in a strong position for post-election negotiations that apportion ministries and control over state institutions.

Despite pre-poll hopes that a civil society movement could break through into Lebanese politics, only one candidate was thought to have been elected.

A feminist candidate, Joumana Haddad, was contesting the result that saw her narrowly lose out on becoming a second voice in a grassroots movement that had planned to challenge a political class dominated by former civil war figures and their scions.

Hezbollah had been a dominant player in Lebanon before the election and its improved showing now comes at a time of heightened regional tensions between its patron, Iran, and arch foe, Israel, which in reaction to the result claimed there was no distinction between the party and state.

Source : Al Jazeera, The Guardian, CNN, FT