Lebanon PM Hariri admits losses as Hezbollah gains; he may form unity cabinet
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Lebanon PM Hariri admits losses as Hezbollah gains; he may form unity cabinet

Premier says Future Movement wins only 21 out of 128 seats, but remains largest parliamentary bloc, will likely set up coalition with President Michel Aoun

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri greets supporters in his house in downtown Beirut while waiting for the electoral results on May 6, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO)
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri greets supporters in his house in downtown Beirut while waiting for the electoral results on May 6, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri acknowledged Monday that his parliamentary bloc lost seats in this week’s elections, blaming it on a new electoral law and a performance “that wasn’t up to the standard.”

In a televised statement Monday, Hariri said “my hand is extended to every Lebanese who participated in the elections to preserve stability and create jobs.”

A relaxed-looking Hariri told a large group of local and foreign journalists at his Beirut residence that the results, which have not yet been officially announced, credit his Future Movement with 21 of parliament’s 128 seats, a drop from the 33 it controlled in the outgoing legislature.

The prime minister admitted that he had hoped for a stronger showing but said he remained happy with the result, which contrasts with the expected gains made by the rival camp led by the Shiite group Hezbollah.

“We were betting on a better result and a wider bloc with better Christian and Shiite participation,” he said.

The prime minister still heads the largest parliamentary bloc and will likely form a new national unity cabinet.

He said he will continue to work closely with President Michel Aoun, who is allied with a rival bloc led by the Hezbollah terror group.

Official results are expected to be announced by Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk later on Monday, although no time has been set. Both Hariri and the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, were expected to speak later in the day.

Hezbollah and its allies appear set to take at least 47 seats in the 128-seat parliament, which would enable them to veto any laws the Shiite group opposes. The group, according to the unofficial results, added one seat and now has a bloc of 13 in parliament, known as “Loyalty to the Resistance” bloc.

Turnout stood at a lowly 49 percent, according to official figures released after Sunday’s vote by the interior ministry.

Hariri, and other senior politicians, blamed the unexpectedly weak turnout on a new electoral law which appears to have confused or disappointed voters.

“The problem with this election: a lot of people didn’t understand it,” he said when asked about the turnout.

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