Hezbollah’s defeat at the polls


Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group that dominates southern Lebanon, suffered an expected defeat at the polls Sunday as the Western-backed March 14 coalition preserved its narrow majority in parliament.

Analysts attributed the results to high voter turnout, particularly among moderates. But the victory by the moderate coalition may be short-lived. In Lebanon, a country once described as the Paris of the Middle East, there is a demographic battle underway in which the Shiite fundamentalist population of the country is growing more rapidly than the more moderate Christian, Druse and Sunni Muslim populations.

  • Very little will change in Lebanon, warns Avi Issacharoff of Ha’aretz:

The victory of Lebanon’s Western-backed 14 March alliance in Sunday’s elections essentially signifies the victory of sensible Lebanon – a state keen on ensuring its sovereignty and keeping distance from the long arm of Syria and Iran. The moderate alliance made some impressive achievements during this election (like winning all seven seats in Zahle region, an Opposition stronghold), but before we begin hailing a new chapter in Middle East politics, we should bear in mind that very little will change in Lebanon.

The White House will not even waste its time with attributing the results to President Barack Obama’s foreign policy overtures. The victory of 14 March is far from overwhelming – initial results show that it won 69 seats in parliament, compared to 70 in the previous elections.

Lebanon is likely to remain a deeply divided country, overridden by regional powers, election results aside.

For the duration of their next term in power, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora’s cabinet and majority leader Saad Hariri’s coalition will be dependent on Hezbollah’s goodwill. With last summer’s violent showdown, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah made absolutely clear who is in charge.

Maybe that’s why during his victory speech Hariri extended his hand to the defeated opposition, and gave his blessing to "everyone who voted for the rival parties."

  • Lebanon’s Daily Star, in an editorial, praised the relative orderliness of the election:

The Lebanese electorate – barring some trouble-makers – turned in an exemplary performance. Tensions and clashes register in the media; what stays in the mind is the civil manner in which 99 percent of people behaved as they did their civic duty. For some, this means a long trip across the country to cast a vote in a place determined by the location of your father or husband’s civil registration.

Our candidates could learn a thing or two from their constituents when it comes to how to behave.

  • The U.K. Telegraph takes a close look at who Hezbollah really is:

No other political force in the Middle East wears as many faces as Hizbollah. The "Party of God" – the literal translation of its name – is at once a guerrilla army, a political party and a social welfare network for Lebanon’s improverished Shia Muslims.

Recommended from JTA