Lebanon election: Hariri concedes losses as Hizballah tightens grip

Lebanon election: Hariri concedes losses as Hizballah tightens grip
2 min read
The prime minister admitted he had hoped for a stronger showing, which contrasts with the expected gains made by the rival camp led by the Iran-backed Shia group Hizballah.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri casts his vote at a polling station in Beirut [Getty]
Lebanon's incumbent Prime Minister Saad Hariri conceded his party has lost a third of its seats following the country's first general election in nine years.

Meanwhile the preliminary results cement rival Hizballah's dominance, with the Iran-backed group's leader praising the gains as vindicating the group's military operations.

"This is a great political and moral victory for the resistance option that protects the sovereignty of the country," Hizballah's Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address on Monday.

The number of Hizballah lawmakers in the 128-seat parliament may not increase but pre-electoral tactics have secured it enough allies to withstand political challenges on strategic issues, including calls for it to disarm.

Before the results were officially announced, Hariri told reporters his party had won 21 seats, a drop from the 33 it held in the outgoing legislature.

"We were betting on a better result and a wider bloc with better Christian and Shiite participation," admitted Hariri, whose party nonetheless remains one of the largest in parliament, facilitating his return as prime minister to form the next government.

"My hand is extended to every Lebanese who participated in the elections to preserve stability and create jobs," Hariri said in a televised statement on Monday. 

The polls were also marked by a low turnout of 49.2 percent,  and the emergence of a civil society movement which is challenging Lebanon's oligarchs and was set to break into parliament for the first time.

The unofficial tally also shows at least one candidate from a civil society list - journalist Paula Yaacoubian - won a seat in the capital, an area traditionally monopolised by established political parties.

The biggest winner so far is the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces, which almost doubled its number of seats to 15. The group has vowed to combat the country's rampant corruption.