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Hezbollah loses majority in Lebanese parliament

Hezbollah loses majority in Lebanese parliament

dpa
Beirut
The pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement and it allies lost their majority in the Lebanese parliament in weekend legislative elections, as opposition groups and rival political factions scored gains, according to official results on Tuesday. 
The elections, which came while the country is suffering from its worst economic crisis, dealt a blow to Hezbollah and its allies, who only grabbed 62 seats out of the 128-member parliament.  Hezbollah and its allies would have needed 65 seats to hold on to their majority in parliament.
In the 2018 elections, the group and its allies, among them the Christian Free Patriotic Movement, won a majority of 71 seats in parliament.  Representatives of the 2019 protest movements, on the other hand, won an unexpected number of seats, while other Hezbollah opponents also made gains.
The opposition, who call themselves the “Force of Change,” won 13 seats - significantly more than expected.
Many of the opposition candidates emerged from mass, anti-government protests that erupted in 2019. Those were directed, among other things, against widespread corruption in Lebanon.
Many people blame the established parties, which have been in power for decades, for the country’s severe crisis and the political stalemate in the country. 
Meanwhile, Hezbollah saw major allies, some of them veteran politicians and staunch supporters of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and Iran, lose their seats.
The Free Patriotic Movement, a key Hezbollah ally, is no longer the country’s largest Christian parliamentary bloc. It won only 18 seats in Sunday’s elections, compared to 20 seats grabbed by their rivals, the US-Saudi backed Lebanese Forces, staunch critics of Hezbollah.
Sami Nader, an analyst with the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs said the result was a “setback” for Hezbollah, but cast doubts about whether it will bring change.  “I do not expect a drastic change to happen inside the parliament as long as the Shiite groups inside it still have power, despite their loss,” Nader told dpa.
He feared that Hezbollah will continue its policy of blocking decisions that won’t serve their interests.
Hezbollah, which is closely allied with Iran, is considered the most influential political force in the country. Its power is based, among other things, on its own armed militia, with which it controls entire territories, including the region bordering its arch-enemy, Israel.
“More international pressure is needed immediately to prevent an institutional vacuum and discourage any compromises that threaten to cripple the movement toward change,” in the country, wrote Hanin Ghaddar, Friedmann Fellow at The Washington Institute.
Forming a new government, the election of a parliamentary speaker and the coutry’s presidential election are three key issues the new parliament will be working on in the coming weeks and months.  Lebanon is governed by a system which divides power between its religious
communities.
Lebanon’s president is a Christian Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliamentary speaker a Shiite Muslim, according to an unwritten pact to establish a balance in the multi-confessional state that dates back to 1943.
For more than two years, Lebanon has been suffering from the worst economic and financial crisis in its history. According to the UN, around three-quarters of the people in Lebanon now live below the poverty line.
Electricity  in Lebanon is only available for a few hours a day. The currency has lost more than 90% of its value and the country can no longer repay its debts.
Potential donors like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are willing to help, but they demand reforms. So far, the government has failed to deliver.

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