Lebanon's Hezbollah hails 'great victory' after vote

Lebanon's Hezbollah hails 'great victory' after vote

A Lebanese election official empties a ballot box after the polling station closed during Lebanon's parliamentary election, in Beirut, Lebanon, May 6, 2018.

Hezbollah's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, called it a "political and moral victory" for the "resistance", as the group refers to itself and allies.

The two main protagonists of the country's first legislative polls in nearly a decade did not wait for official results to comment on the implications of a vote which was also marked by low turnout.

Despite the losses, the result positions Hariri as the frontrunner to form the next government as the Sunni Muslim leader with the biggest bloc in parliament.

The Iran-backed Shiite movement and its allies look set to secure a parliament bloc large enough to thwart attempts for it to disarm, a longstanding demand of its political enemies.

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In Lebanon, the prime minister must be Sunni due to the sectarian division of its government.

Hezbollah's simple majority bloc will allow them to veto any laws they oppose, but it would take a two-thirds majority to pass big legislation, such as amending the constitution.

Hezbollah, which was created in the 1980s to fight against Israel and now battles in Syria alongside regime forces, is listed as a terror organisation by the United States.

Turnout was 49.2 percent, down from 54 percent the last time legislative elections were held nine years ago.

The drop came despite a reformulated electoral law created to encourage voting through proportional representation.

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

An Israeli minister said the outcome, which has yet to be confirmed by official results, showed the Lebanese state was indistinguishable from Hezbollah, signalling the risk of Israel hitting Lebanon's government in a future war.

The main race was between a Western and Saudi-backed coalition headed by Hariri and the Iran-backed Hezbollah, part of a region-wide power struggle that is tearing apart the Middle East.

The highly-armed, Iranian-backed group Hezbollah has gained influence from its involvement in Syria since 2012.

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