Lebanon’s pro-western political parties appear to have maintained their holding on to power following that country’s parliamentary elections on Sunday. In what turned out to be a closely contested race between the pro-westerners, head by Saad Hariri‘s Future Movement party and that headed by Hezbollah and it’s allies, Hariri’s coalition received 68 seats in parliament, while the Hezbollah let coalition won 58. While there was reason for celebration by prime minister Fuad Siniora, The Hezbollah faction and their allies (including former army chief Michel Aoun) still have enough seats in parliament to maintain their veto power, which they have often used affectively.
Hariri, the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, appeared satisfied with his side’s performance although it was a bit less than hoped for. More then 52% of eligible Lebanese exercised their voting rights, in a remarkably calm election that was supervised by a number of international observers, including former U.S. president Jimmy Carter.
Israeli officials also appeared pleased with the outcome, although there was no doubt that the Hizbullah led faction still has great influence in what goes on in Lebanon, from both a political and military angle. Political strategists who followed the election and pre-election campaign, say that high Christian voter turn-out was a decisive factor this time. Lebanese politics have been divided up among sectarian lines since the country’s independence, and the Lebanese parliament’s 128 seats are evenly composed of Christian and Muslims, even though Muslims now outnumber Christians by 65% to 35%. Many Sunni Muslims also voted in favor of the pro-western side, especially due to Hezbollah’s “street party” a year ago in which they literally controlled the streets of Beirut for a while, resulting in their winning the veto rights in parliament.
Christians were also warned by party leaders that the Hezbollah, led by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, would lead their country towards more control by the Hezbollah, who are Shiite Muslims and virtual proxies of Iran.
The U.S. Government has also warned beforehand that their country would give less aid to Lebanon (now at $ 1 billion a year) if the Hizbullah side won.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, a Maronite Christian, expressed the hope that a national unity government could now be formed. If this should happen, however, who would gain the most from it â€“ the Hariri led side, or the Shiekh’s?