The Syrian Refugees’ Return to their Homeland: Approaches and Prospects
May 10, 2018
Lebanon’s Stability between International Resolutions and Regional Tensions
May 16, 2018

Lebanon Special Report on the Parliamentary Elections

Lebanon got few surprises in its national elections on Sunday after nine years of waiting. Several Western media outlets proclaimed that Hezbollah has imposed its dominance through Lebanon’s parliamentary elections. However, the results show that the status-quo in Lebanon will remain almost the same with few changes in some parliamentary blocs.

Did Hezbollah win the Elections?

According to the final results, Hezbollah and its close allies (Amal movement, Marada, SNNP, Baath, Pro-Syrian figures) got a number of 43 deputies all over Lebanon. This result indicates that Hezbollah and allies did improve their numbers from 2009 notably due to its allies in the Sunni communities being able to win seats in the different districts (Tripoli, West Bekaa, Saida, and Beirut) due to the proportional representation system. However, Hezbollah and its alliance did not obtain a majority in the Lebanese parliament and remain far from the 64 deputies needed for that.

Political Party Seats (2009) Seats (2018)
Amal 13 16
FPM 17 19
FPM Allies 4 7
Future Movement 29 18
Future Movement Allies 5 2
Hezbollah 13 13
Independents 14 6
Kataeb 5 3
Lebanese Forces Party 8 16
Marada (Frangiye) 3 3
March 8 Independents 2 9
Mikati 2 4
Progressive socialist Party (Jumblat) 11 9
Syrian socialist nationalist party 2 3
Total 128 128

March 8 – March 14 Balance

The results are important but must not be overstated especially with the news of Hezbollah’s victory. It is normal for Hezbollah’s alliance to consolidate its power among the Shiite population. Moreover, Lebanon’s politics is not only decided by the electoral results but also shaped by sectarian realities, regional conflicts and other factors. The assumption that Hezbollah now control the majority of the parliament is based on including the bloc of Free Patriotic Movement (FPM of President Michel Aoun and now led by his son in law, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil) a part of the same group. Although the two groups have an understanding since 2006, the nature of the relationship changed since Aoun was elected as President in 2016. It is well known that Hezbollah is worried about the positive relationship between Saad El Hariri and Bassil. The FPM and Future parties were allied together in 4 electoral districts (Zahle, Beirut 1, South 3, and North 3). On the other hand the FPM allied with Hezbollah only in 3 (Beirut 2, West Bekaa, and Baabda) while running against them in 6 (Baabeck, Zahle, Akkar, Jbeil, Sour, and South 3).

Thus, in the old classification of March 14 & March 8 Aoun and Bassil in addition to political figures like Mikati and others can be considered as the centrist and make up together 36 seats. The hardcore March 8 including Hezbollah, Amal, SSNP, Marada, and several independent figures have achieved a main improvement in ensuring one-third of the deputies, enough parliamentary seats to constitute a blocking third in the legislature on major issues requiring two third votes.[1]

However, it is also important to indicate that the March 14 (LFP, Future, PSP and Kataeb) gained one third themselves and a total of 48 seats. This clearly shows that the balance along that axis is still there and no one side has won a majority or a control over the parliament. Furthermore, Hezbollah the spearhead of March 8 has preserved its 13 seats from the previous parliament, whereas the Lebanese Forces the spearhead of March 14 has doubled its seats from 8 to 16 reflecting a supporting popular mood and a better representation through the new law making it one of the largest parliamentary blocs.[2]

Current Political Axes

Looking beyond the axes of March 8 and March 14 that is no longer the main cleavage line in Lebanese politics, the alliances in day to day politics have shifted since the election of Aoun as president. The understanding between Aoun and Hariri in the cabinet has formed a major feature of Lebanese politics, making them the new mainstream that gained in the new parliament a total of 48 seats with their allies. Around this mainstream, different political powers are positioning themselves right and left.

A group of opposition gathering parties from March 8 and March 14 is starting to take shape and it may include Amal, PSP, Frangiye, Mikati with more than 35 deputies and a serious ability to challenge the Aoun/Hariri duet and may present Mikati as an alternative Prime Minister.

On the other hand, the Lebanese Forces being a main force in March 14 was a major component in the realization of the agreement that brought Aoun to the presidency, and was consequently supposed to be a major partner in the ruling system. However, the LFP diverged more and more over the past year from the Aoun/Hariri duet due to major disagreements in issues regarding to state sovereignty, corruption, and management of public finances. Thus, it remains to be seen whether the rumors that the duet would prefer to have the LFP outside the government will materialize.

Political Sizes

The implications for this achievement are significant on two complimentary levels. First, the alliances were made only with independents and smaller parties (Kataeb-Liberals). Second, these allies are in full harmony with the LF’s political discourse, including their hardline position against Hezbollah and Corruption.

The biggest loser on the other hand was the Future movement with a drastic decrease from 34 to 20 seats. Hariri had lost most of the Christian and Shiite seats he had, as well as many Sunni seats. This loss reflects a dismay from the political positioning of Prime Minister Hariri in the past two years and the alliance with FPM in politics and elections. However, Hariri remains the strongest representative of the Sunni community.

The biggest bloc in the new parliament is that of the FPM and its allies under the name of “Strong Lebanon” with 19 FPM members, 3 Tashnak, and 6 Independents. However reading into the alliances and the numbers, two things become clear: First, the FPM alliances strategy was to ally with anyone anywhere to get more seats disregarding any political principles or programs (ex: Muslim Brotherhood in Saida and Akkar, as well as different Islamist groups in Beirut) . Second, despite of the big difference in the number of deputies in their two blocs, the popular vote for the FPM party candidates and the LF party candidates differs of only few thousands. This reflects a balanced duality in the representation of the Christians among the two parties.  

What’s Next?

Following the parliamentary elections, the focus will shift to the formation of the government. The main issues to be watching are: The nomination of the Prime Minister and whether there would be any challenge to Hariri; the balance of power inside the new government: will it be a coalition government that includes most parties represented in the parliament or a more homogeneous one; how will the president and the prime minster address the Shiite insistence on keeping the finance ministry in their share; and the size and form of the LF participation, since this has become a necessary factor for the government to deliver on its international and local commitments in the areas of disassociation, economic and financial reforms, fighting corruption and several other urgent issues.

[1] Young, M. (2018). Lebanon ≠ Hezbollah, Carnegie Middle East Center, retrieved from: https://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/76280
[2] Haboush, J. (2018). The myth of Hezbollah’s electoral domination, The Daily Star, retrieved from: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2018/May-08/448470-the-myth-of-hezbollahs-electoral-domination.ashx