Lebanon’s Hariri says his party has lost a third of its seats in parliament

Beirut: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Monday that his Sunni-dominated political movement had lost a third of its seats in parliament following the country’s first general election in nine years.
Lebanon on Sunday held its first parliamentary elections since 2009.
Hariri said his Future Movement won 21 seats in a parliamentary election on Sunday, down from the 33 he won the last time Lebanon elected a parliament in 2009.
The Iran-backed Shia group Hezbollah and its political allies looked set to win more than half the seats, according to preliminary results cited by politicians and Lebanese media.
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. Lebanon’s prime minister has to be a Sunni under its sectarian power-sharing system.
“I extend my hand to every Lebanese to participate in shoring up securing political stability and to improve the lives of all the Lebanese,” Hariri said in a televised address.
The international community should look at results of Lebanon’s election in a “very positive way,” he said.
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 Hezbollah.
Lebanon is under pressure to prove to international donors and investors – who pledged more than $11 billion to Beirut last month – that it has a credible plan to reform its economy. Holding elections was seen as a key part of this.
Low turnout
The polls were also marked by a low turnout of 49.2 percent and the emergence of a civil society movement challenging Lebanon’s oligarchs that could clinch a pair of seats in parliament.
Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk announced the turnout figure at a news conference shortly after midnight and appeared to blame it on the new electoral law agreed last year.
“This is a new law and voters were not familiar with it, nor were the heads of polling stations,” he said. “Voting operations were very slow.”
As provisional estimates trickled in, some candidates’ supporters started celebrating in the streets after a polling operation marred only by a few violations but no major incident.
Lawmakers had extended their own mandate three times since 2009, ostensibly over security concerns linked to neighbouring Syria’s war and political divisions that led to long and crippling institutional crises.
A higher turnout had been expected after the long electoral hiatus but the vote was the first to follow a law passed in 2017 and the pre-printed ballots used on Sunday appeared to confuse some voters.
Possible kingmaker
Some voters also said that the sometimes absurd web of local electioneering alliances that saw some parties work together in one district and compete in others had put them off.
With an hour to go before polling stations closed, several senior political leaders appealed for an eleventh-hour rush to the ballot boxes but stopped short of extending polling hours.