Published: Thu, May 10, 2018
World News | By Joan Terry

Lebanon's new election law unlikely to upset balance of power

Lebanon's new election law unlikely to upset balance of power

"Speaking at a press conference in Beirut, Hariri voiced his "'satisfaction" with the poll results, going on to describe Lebanon's new election law - adopted previous year - as his government's "most important achievement".

Voting ended at 7 pm to all except those already waiting in polling stations.

Party flags flew from cars and mopeds, loudspeakers blared campaign songs and young people wore T-shirts bearing the faces of political leaders.

However, the new electoral law, which replaced a winner-takes-all system with proportional representation requiring a choice for a list as well as an individual candidate, is thought likely to weaken the two blocs.

Analysts believe Hariri will still emerge with the biggest Sunni bloc. Another candidate in eastern Lebanon accused Hezbollah supporters of firing at his auto. Lebanon has one of the world's highest debt-to-GDP ratios and the International Monetary Fund has warned its fiscal trajectory is unsustainable. "We made hope possible", he said.

There are about 3.6 million eligible voters, and early results are expected after polling stations close at 7pm.

The Future Movement headed by Hezbollah opponent Sa'ad Hariri lost seats and now appears to have only 18 seats, a loss of 16.

Such a result would unsettle neighbouring Israel and Saudi Arabia, which scaled back its long-term support for Hariri when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman summonsed him to Riyadh last November and ordered him to resign, after complaining that his government had given cover to Hezbollah - the most important arm of Iran's foreign policy.

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Hezbollah is set to benefit from the collapse of the main Saudi Arabia-backed Sunni-led coalition, as well as the new electoral laws. But that "March 14" alliance disintegrated and Riyadh has switched its attention to confronting Iran in other parts of the region, notably Yemen.

"When we see what is happening in countries around us and Lebanon is holding democratic elections, this shows that Lebanon is fine", Hariri said after waiting in line around 20 minutes to cast his ballot.

Results announced Monday night revealed the country's first election in nine years is a landslide victory for Hezbollah and its allies.

The vote was governed by a complex new electoral law meant to bring in new political players while preserving Lebanon's sect-based political system. He is nevertheless expected to form the next government.

Mustapha Muzawwaq, 65, was sitting with neighbours in a side street drinking coffee. "We must calm the situation in the country, act positively, and leave no space for gloating". This has been last of a long list of domestic and regional political crises that has struck Lebanon in last decade. Seats in parliament are equally divided between Lebanon's Muslims and Christians.

A power-sharing system stipulates that the prime minister should be a Sunni Muslim, the speaker of parliament a Shia and the president a Maronite ChristianIn a televised address a day after the elections, Hassan Nasrallah declared what he called a "great political and moral victory for the resistance option that protects the sovereignty of the country".

For many voters, it proved confusing.

Despite some acts of violence and intimidation connected to the election in recent weeks, no major incidents were reported in the immediate run-up to voting. They accused her party of bribery.

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