A new page in Lebanon’s political history opened on Sunday after the parliamentary elections. The new one is not because it causes a radical shock in the balance of power in parliament, but because it consolidates several dynamics that operate after the October uprising of 2019, which are simply unprecedented in the history of Lebanon.
At the time of the press, the results were not yet final. But we can make the first serious observation, which contradicts most analysis in recent months: the new parliament will not be like the old one, and the election marks a real political turning point, despite the limits of the exercise.
The election sanctifies two big winners: the Lebanese forces, which become the first Christian party in the Assembly (19 seats), and the protest movements, which are finally to win 11 to 13 seats. The main effect of these two events is that Hezbollah and its allies are losing a majority in parliament. The numbers are again not final, but the alliance on March 8 should get about 61 places out of 128 in the game.
Hezbollah may believe that it has limited the damage and that no one has won a majority. The FL may well be the biggest bloc, but the gap that separates them from the main opponent, the Courant patriotique libre, is quite small (19 places against 17). The Shiite tandem also boasts that it still has a monopoly on the political representation of its community, winning 27 Shiite seats in parliament. The economic situation and growing criticism on its streets have not been a priori translated into the political level, in particular because of the party’s fear atmosphere. The exceptional result achieved by the opposition in Lebanon-South III, where it won two seats, in particular by defeating Hezbollah-backed candidate Marwan Hayreddin, nevertheless qualifies this observation. A breakthrough by a Shiite candidate hostile to the Iranian axis, similar to what happened in Iraq during the last parliamentary elections, would be the worst-case scenario for Hezbollah. While maintaining its hegemony, it becomes almost inevitable at the institutional level at the national level. How to really form a government without a tandem that politically represents the entire Shiite community? Who should be elected Speaker of the Assembly when 27 Shiite deputies depend on the Hezbollah-Amal duo?
For Hezbollah, the election results are not a big bang. However, this is an important defeat, the second in a row for the Iranian axis after the one recorded in Iraq. The party’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, did his best to avoid this scenario by going so far as to deliver three speeches in the last week before the election. He has repeatedly insisted in recent weeks that it is important for his party to gain a majority in the regional and local context, where it feels cornered. The fact that he failed to do so is enough to worry about training for several reasons that are not only arithmetic.
In any case, the Shiite party is the strongest on the ground, and its behavior in the Assembly does not fundamentally change depending on whether it has a majority. However, this allows him not to resort to terror to impose his decisions and keep his red lines. If the new parliament does not have a clear majority, MPs who are openly hostile to Hezbollah’s dominance should still be in the majority. And this is the main problem Hezbollah is facing now.
The current economic situation in the country may benefit it, forcing the various actors to at least cooperate and highlight economic issues. But, with the exception of this, all others, on the contrary, seek to increase polarization.
The Shiite party will first have to face the rise of the Lebanese forces, which are backed by Saudi Arabia and which seem to want to be part of the logic of the confrontation with Hezbollah. Indeed, it is hard to imagine, even if there is nothing impossible in Lebanese politics, for the two parties to work together within the same government or agree on the name of the future president. Thus, any confrontation could lead to an escalation that could force Hezbollah to tear its claws out, similar to what it did between 2005 and 2008, but this time in a much less favorable context.
FL is far from the only actor to oppose Hezbollah. Kataib and their allies, such as Michel Moavad, who also grew stronger after the vote, have a similar discourse on the subject. Most of the protesting candidates who won the seat also claim that the state has a monopoly on legitimate violence. The very good scores on the Sunni stage of the hawk Ashraf Rifi and Osama Saad, who distanced himself from the party of God, also confirm this general trend. All these figures and these parties do not form a single bloc, but could, on the contrary, oppose each other on several key issues. But the fact remains that it is possible that random alliances are being formed between them, for example, to allow the conclusion of the investigation into the double explosion in the port of Beirut, which Hezbollah did everything to prevent.
Depending on her behavior, her ability to keep the ballot on several issues, including the election of a future prime minister and the formation of a government, or even the implementation of reforms required by the IMF, Hezbollah will be (or not) the main issue within the next assembly. The second issue of the party, Mohammad Raad, did not make a mistake yesterday, commenting on the election results.
“We accept you as opponents in parliament, but we do not see you as a shield that protects the Israelis,” he said, referring to the Lebanese Armed Forces (FL) without quoting them. “Pay attention to your speech, your behavior and the future of your country,” Raad said in a speech broadcast by Hezbollah Al-Manar. “Don’t ignite the flames of civil war,” he added.
A new page in Lebanon’s political history opened on Sunday after the parliamentary elections. The new one is not because it causes a radical imbalance of power in the parliament, but because it consolidates several dynamics that operate after the October uprising of 2019, which are simply unprecedented in ….