Preliminary results in Lebanon put Hezbollah and allies in lead but short of majority

A key highlight of these elections has been the emergence of parties like Towards Change which claim to represent the protesters who took to the streets in 2019. They seat count may be in the double digits, giving them a key role in government formation

May 17, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Lebanon elections
(Photo: Xinhua)

As per the preliminary results of the Lebanese elections held on Sunday, May 15, Hezbollah and its allies are set to be the leading force in parliament although the alliance has lost seats. Speculation of Hezbollah losing its popularity seems to be unfounded as it has received 22,000 more votes than in the last elections despite a lower voter turnout. Forces that claim to represent the demands of the 2019 protests have also made a breakthrough.

According to Lebanon’s Ministry of Interior, the voter turnout on Sunday was 41%, lower than the previous elections in 2018 when it was 49%. The total number of registered voters was 3.9 million out of a total population of 6.8 million. Among the country’s 15 electoral constituencies, the highest voter turnout was in the south-eastern Bekaa III (Baalbek-Hermal) constituency (48.9%) and the lowest was in Beirut I (28.5%). 

Over 63% of all expatriate Lebanese (244,442 registered voters) exercised their voting rights between May 6 and 8. 

There are 128 seats in the Lebanese parliament. Seats are equally divided between Muslims and Christians (64 each) due to the confessional system. There are 103 lists and 718 candidates contesting for these 128 seats. In the last elections, there were only 77 lists. The lists are divided into three major groups: Hezbollah and its allies, Lebanese Forces (LF) and allies, and the Independent list mostly made of the October 17 movement called Together Towards Change and other NGOs. 

Hezbollah and its allies had a majority of seats (71) in the last parliamentary elections and are expected to retain the status of the largest block. However, as per the preliminary results, they may lose their majority in the parliament despite Hezbollah and its closest ally Amal, fighting on the platform of “faith and loyalty”, already securing 32 seats, five more than their previous tally of 27 seats.  

Contrary to earlier speculation, the LF led by Samir Geagea has failed to emerge as the largest Christian party despite winning 18 seats in comparison to 15 seats in the last elections. President Michel Aoun-led Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) retains its leading position with 20 seats so far. FPM had 18 seats in the last election. 

Towards Change and other pro-change groups are together expected to win seats in the double digits. This may make them crucial players in the formation of any new government. 

Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil, who now heads the FPM, had complained about US interference in the elections in favor of the LF. Several Hezbollah supporters also accused the US, Saudi Arabia and their allies of trying to interfere in the elections. 

The years preceding the election were marked by massive protests and an unprecedented economic crisis that was compounded by the COVID-19 outbreak and the Beirut port blast in August 2020. Economic hardships and the failure of successive governments to tackle the daily problems of the people were the main issues in these elections. A large number of poor and rural voters were also angry with the role of the banks during the economic crisis.    

The low voter turnout was attributed to disenchantment with the established parties and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri-led Future Movement’s decision to boycott the elections. The Future Movement had 13 seats in the last elections. 

The new parliament is expected to elect a new president by October 2022. It is also expected to implement the economic reforms prescribed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in an agreement signed with the Najib Mikati-led government last month, which includes the controversial capital control law

The final results are expected by the evening of Tuesday, May 17.