Ruling parties to keep their clout as Lebanon votes

Beirut: Lebanon elects its parliament for the first time in nine years on Sunday, with its ruling parties seeking to preserve a fragile power-sharing arrangement despite regional tensions.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and its allies could come to dominate parliament and reinforce their clout in Lebanon, a small country clamped between war-torn Syria and Israel.
A new voting system has raised some hope for an unprecedented civil society list to make a small dent in the decades-old monopoly of political dynasties but disillusionment is rife in the electorate.
The triumvirate heading the state is unlikely to change, with parliament speaker Nabih Berri almost certain to keep the post he has held since 1992 and Prime Minister Saad Hariri also set to stay put.
President Michel Aoun’s position is not up for renewal on May 6 but his party is a key player in a dizzying game of alliances which leads allies in one district to be enemies in another.
Hezbollah, whose militia outguns the army and is listed by the United States as a terrorist organisation, is allied both to Berri and Aoun and is expected to chip at the camp led by Hariri’s Sunni-dominated movement.
A clear win for Hezbollah, which is active in several conflicts in the region, could further fray the nerves of Israel and Washington.
Hezbollah is funded and armed by Shia Iran while Hariri has historically been supported by Sunni regional kingpin Saudi Arabia. But both have appeared ready to continue sharing power and neutralise growing tension between their rival sponsors.