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Lebanon's PM Hariri says his party lost third of parliament seats

08 May 2018, 01:13 | Marta Robbins

Lebanon's PM Hariri says his party lost third of parliament seats

Lebanon celebrates its first parliamentary election on Sunday in nine years

Counting is underway in Lebanon's first parliamentary elections in nine years, which were marked by low voter turnout.

But in recent years, Riyadh has cut support for Hariri, backing that helped Future in 2009 as part of the March 14 coalition, which focused on making Hezbollah give up its arms.

It has one of the world's highest debt-to-GDP ratios and the International Monetary Fund has warned its fiscal trajectory is unsustainable.

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.

"I extend my hand to every Lebanese to participate in shoring up securing political stability and to improve the lives of all the Lebanese", Hariri said in a televised address. The Hezbollah leader called it "political and moral victory" for the resistance.

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.

At the same time, reportedly, the Sunni bloc led by current Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri will have enough support at the 128-mandate parliament to form a new cabinet.

"The vote results provide the Mustaqbal with a bloc of 21 lawmakers in the parliament".

Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is staunchly pro-Hezbollah, described the election as "a slap" for Hariri on its front page.

According to a Reuters calculation based on preliminary results for almost all seats, Hezbollah and its political allies such as the Amal Movement and Free Patriotic Movement have won 67 out of the parliament's 128 seats. There's no problem. We're not weak, we're very strong. But the number of Hezbollah MPs was little changed at around 13.

Hezbollah, which was created in the 1980s to fight against Israel and now battles in Syria alongside regime forces, is listed as a terror organisation by the United States.

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Debt ratings agencies had stressed the importance of Lebanon going ahead with the election after parliament had extended its term several times. He is the scion of a famous political dynasty and son of late former prime minister Omar Karame, who was an ally of Damascus.

The drop came despite a reformulated electoral law created to encourage voting through proportional representation.

If official results expected in the afternoon confirm Hezbollah's own estimates, the movement which Iran is essentially using for external operations will be better positioned to fend off any suggestion it should disarm. President Michel Aoun appeared on television to urge Lebanese to turn out.

Hezbollah as well as groups and individuals affiliated to it have won at least 67 seats in Lebanon's parliament, according to the results cited by politicians and campaigns and reported in Lebanese media. Lebanese politics is highly fractured and sectarian, and alliances and negotiations are expected to be worked out after the dust has settled.

The biggest victor so far is the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces that nearly doubled its number of seats to 15.

As many as 800,000 voters under the age of 30 were expected to cast ballots for the first time.

SECURITY PRESENCE After the last election in 2009, the onset of Syria's civil war, the arrival of over a million refugees and a series of militant attacks aggravated internal political rifts.

A Lebanese man showcases his ink-stained thumb after casting his vote in the first Lebanese parliamentary election in nine years, in the coastal city of Byblos, north of the capital Beirut.

Joumanna Haddad is interviewed at a protest outside the interior ministry in Beirut, 7 May, 2018. I would like to tell you that I am satisfied with the results.

Turnout for the polls was disappointing.



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