Independents scoop up at least 10 seats, a major achievement considering they went into the vote fragmented and facing intimidation and threats by entrenched mainstream parties.
Hezbollah and its allies appear to have suffered losses in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections with preliminary results showing their strongest opponents picking up more seats and some of their traditional partners routed out of the legislature.
Official results for Sunday's election are due to be announced on Monday.
Despite the apparent setback, Hezbollah and its main Shia ally, the Amal group of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, are likely to retain the 27 seats allocated to the sect.
It was not clear, however, whether the Iran-backed group and its allies would hang on to the majority they have held since 2018, when they had 71 of the 128 seats in parliament.
Meanwhile, independents, including those from the 2019 protest movement, scooped up at least 10 seats, a major achievement considering they went into the vote fragmented and facing intimidation and threats by entrenched mainstream parties.
Their showing sends a strong message to ruling class politicians who have held on to their seats despite a devastating economic collapse that has plunged the majority of the country into poverty.
The mixed bag ensures a sharply polarised parliament with lawmakers who will likely find it difficult to work together to pass the laws needed to begin the financial recovery and support a government with enormous challenges that lie ahead.
Preliminary results of Lebanon's parliamentary elections show a significant loss for Hezbollah and its allies. Journalist Imogen Kimber has more pic.twitter.com/6WaqDCjxDx— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) May 16, 2022
Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who is hoping to return as head of a post-election government, urged groups and independents who will be represented in the new parliament to move quickly “because what we are passing through cannot withstand (political) bickering at the expense of priorities.”
Mikati was apparently referring to consultations that are expected to begin soon to name a new prime minister whose government’s main mission will be to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund to work on getting Lebanon out of its paralysing economic crisis.
The legislature will have to draft new laws related to the economic crisis, such as a capital controls law.
With votes still being counted, unofficial results showed Hezbollah’s Christian ally, the Free Patriotic Movement founded by President Michel Aoun, losing ground to its traditional Christian rivals, the rightwing Lebanese Forces headed by Samir Geagea.
Removing longtime parliamentarians
According to early results announced by each of the groups, independents were able to remove several longtime politicians from parliament, including Hezbollah-allied Druze politician Talal Arslan.
The Saudi-backed Christian Lebanese Forces party, which has been among the most vocal critics of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, appeared to be the biggest winner. The civil-war era faction said it won at least 20 seats, adding five members from the 2018 vote.
This would make it the largest Christian bloc in parliament, replacing the Free Patriotic Movement that has been a Hezbollah ally since 2006.
Asaad Hardan, a strong Hezbollah ally in south Lebanon, reportedly lost his seat to an independent, while another independent, Mark Daou, says “we are heading to a big victory.” Daou is running in the Mount Lebanon region of Aley against longtime Druze politician Talal Arslan.
READ MORE: Lebanon heads to polls amid fear and hope