The Latest: Hezbollah gains, PM loses in Lebanon elections
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Lebanon’s elections (all times local):
Lebanon’s interior minister has announced the results of Sunday’s parliamentary elections, showing gains by the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its allies and losses by Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Western-aligned Future Movement.
Nouhad Machnouk announced the results late Monday, saying that they do not include the northern Akkar region, where counting is still underway.
Machnouk said “congratulations to all those who won in the elections,” adding that the new parliament will convene on May 20.
Hezbollah and its allies won more than a third of the 128 seats, giving them veto power. Hariri’s bloc lost a third of its seats, but he is likely to remain prime minister because of Lebanon’s sectarian political system.
The head of Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement says it has won at least 29 seats in parliamentary elections, making it the largest bloc in the assembly.
Gibran Bassil, who serves as foreign minister and heads Aoun’s party, told reporters on Monday that their bloc could end up having 30 seats. He said it would maintain its “strategic alliance” with the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group.
The Free Patriotic Movement was the second largest in the outgoing parliament after Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s bloc, which had 32 seats but appears to have lost a third of them in Sunday’s elections.
Hariri is likely to remain in his post, but Hezbollah and its allies appear to have gained enough seats in the 128-member legislature to veto legislation.
Supporters of an outside candidate forecast to win a seat in parliament in Lebanon’s national elections have gathered outside the Interior Ministry to protest what they say are clear signs of fraud to deny her victory.
Joumana Haddad, a novelist and candidate with the independent Kulna Watani list - Arabic for “We are all patriots” - was forecast to win by the national media on Sunday, one of just two victories for the list.
But TV channels stopped reporting her victory on Monday, leading supporters to say they were robbed.
Lucian Bourjeily, a candidate with Watani, said “the people in power didn’t like this result, so they proceeded with rigging the result in the last minute.”
Sunday’s forecasts were based on unofficial tallies gathered at polling stations. The Interior Ministry has not published its official results, 23 hours after polls closed.
The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections reported over 7,000 polling violations in Sunday’s elections.
Fights broke out in and around polling stations around the country. In one instance, an angry crowd smashed a ballot box inside a polling station, spilling completed ballots across the floor. The army ordered the media inside to turn off their cameras.
The leader of Hezbollah says gains in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections will give “protection” to the Iran-backed militant group.
Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech Monday that the “mission is accomplished” after weeks of campaigning.
Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group by the U.S., but its political wing has long held seats in Lebanon’s parliament and is part of Lebanon’s outgoing coalition government.
Nasrallah did not say how many seats his group and its allies won, but early results show that they have won at least 43 of the legislature’s 128 seats, giving them the power to veto laws.
Early results show that Hezbollah’s bloc now has 13 members, one more than previously.
Nasrallah said: “There is a major political, parliamentarian and moral victory for the choice of the resistance.”
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri has acknowledged 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.”
Hariri said his group won 21 seats in Sunday’s vote, 11 fewer than what it had been holding since 2009.
The prime minister still heads the largest parliamentary bloc and will likely form a new national unity Cabinet.
He says he will continue to work closely with President Michel Aoun, who is allied with a rival bloc led by the militant Hezbollah.
Lebanese media say the Iran-backed Hezbollah group appears to have made gains in the parliamentary elections held on Sunday while the Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement party has sustained losses.
Preliminary and unofficial results, which are more or less expected to match the official count, show that Sunni voters are losing faith in Hariri’s party amid a stagnant economy and general exasperation over the civil war in neighboring Syria which has brought 1 million refugees to Lebanon.
Hariri, a Sunni politician with close ties to Saudi Arabia, has so far lost five seats in Beirut, once considered a stronghold for his party.
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 it opposes.