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Hezbollah leader declares ‘big victory’ despite losing parliamentary majority

Terror group’s head Hassan Nasrallah acknowledges blow for his bloc but says no single party has won, calls on political groups to ‘cooperate’ in order to avoid ‘chaos and vacuum’

Hezbollah supporters raise their fists and cheer, as they listens to a speech by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah through a giant screen during an election campaign, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Hezbollah supporters raise their fists and cheer, as they listens to a speech by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah through a giant screen during an election campaign, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah, said Wednesday that no political party could claim victory in the country’s recent elections.

Nasrallah said during his first televised speech since Sunday’s election that “unlike the situation in parliament in 2018, no political group can claim a majority,” according to Reuters.

He did, however, acknowledge that his party and its allies had lost their parliamentary majority.

According to final results released Tuesday, the Hezbollah-led coalition ended up with 61 seats in the 128-member legislature, a drop of 10 since the last vote was held four years ago.

While Hezbollah itself and its main Shiite ally, the Amal group of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, retained their 27 seats, some of its closest allies lost theirs.

The biggest loss came to Hezbollah allies with close links to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, including deputy parliament speaker Elie Ferzli; Druze politician Talal Arslan, who had held a seat for three decades; Asaad Hardan; and Faisal Karami, son of late premier Omar Karami.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a speech via video during a gathering to mark al-Quds Day in the southern suburb of Lebanon’s capital Beirut on April 29, 2022. (Anwar Amro/AFP)

The biggest winner turned out to be the nationalist Christian Lebanese Forces party led by Samir Geagea, one of the harshest critics of Hezbollah and its Iranian backers. Several reform-minded newcomers also made notable achievements.

Independents and newcomers, including those from the 2019 protest movement, scooped 14 seats. That was a major achievement considering they went into the vote fragmented and facing intimidation and threats by entrenched mainstream parties.

Despite the apparent blow to Hezbollah’s political standing in Lebanon, Nasrallah said the results were “a very big victory,” calling on political groups to “cooperate” in order to avoid “chaos and vacuum.”

Without any camp winning a clear majority, the elections have raised the risk of paralyzing the Lebanese political system and perpetuating the ongoing economic crisis in the country.

Sunday’s parliamentary elections were the first since Lebanon’s economic meltdown began in late 2019. The government’s factions have done virtually nothing to address the collapse, leaving Lebanese to fend for themselves as they plunge into poverty, without electricity, medicine, garbage collection or any other semblance of normal life.

The vote is also the first since a deadly explosion at Beirut’s port in August 2020 that killed more than 200, wounded thousands and damaged parts of the capital.

Hezbollah was named one of the main suspects in the incident, with critics accusing the group of shipping the ammonium nitrate fertilizer that caused the blast and storing it at the port since 2013.

Political graffiti is visible in front of the scene of the August 4 explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, August 9, 2020. (AP/Hussein Malla)

Despite the group losing its parliamentary majority, Middle East experts have voiced skepticism about Hezbollah losing its power or posing less of a threat to Israel.

“There is no possibility of reform. There is no possibility of change in the political system. We are stuck in paralysis and stagnation,” Jacques Neriah, Middle East analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said earlier this week.

“The Republic of Lebanon is a destroyed state,” said Amos Gilad, executive director of the Institute for Policy and Strategy at Herzliya’s Reichman University. “The government is paralyzed, the state is corrupt. And these elections don’t help in any way.”

“No one can effect any change in that country, which is suffering from a terminal disease,” he said.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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