By Ilan Fuchs, Esq., Ph.D.
Faculty Member, Legal Studies
Last week, there was an election in Lebanon with people voting from within Lebanon and from locations abroad. The election made it clear that voters are sick and tired of the current situation, and they want to see a change.
Notably, the former majority in the Lebanese parliament, the March 8 Alliance led by terrorist organization Hezbollah, lost its majority. Amal, another Shiite organization led by Prime Minister Nabiya Berri, joined with smaller parties representing fringe clans in the Christian and Druze communities that are dominated by powerful clans in opposition to Hezbollah.
The March 14 Alliance, a coalition in opposition to Hezbollah, also became stronger. The Christian Lebanese Forces, led by Samir Geagea, won at least 19 seats, dethroning the Free Patriotic Movement as the country’s biggest Christian party in Parliament.
Lebanon’s Economic Crisis and Other Problems
The past years have seen Lebanon slip into an economic crisis that broke its fragile economy. The Lebanese pound is worthless and high unemployment rates have forced many young Lebanese, mainly Christians, to leave the country and look for employment abroad. Also, many Lebanese have fled the country to escape sectarian violence and a possible civil war in the near future.
After the deadly 2020 port explosion in Beirut, which destroyed communities and injured or killed many people, many people in Lebanon blamed Hezbollah. The Hezbollah coalition is dominated by Shiite voters who have been assisted monetarily by Iran for decades. But even within the Shiite community, the biggest in Lebanon, some have become tired of Hezbollah’s religious militia that takes its orders from Tehran and has involved Lebanon in regional power struggles such as Syria.
The Election in Lebanon Weakened Pro-Hezbollah Forces
The Middle East Institute summarized the results of the election: “The elections weakened the pro-Hezbollah alliance in favor of its opponents. Hezbollah and its allies ended up with a minority of only 60 seats, while their opponents of various stripes occupy a majority of 68 seats.
“In the Christian community, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) of President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, which is allied with Hezbollah, saw their parliamentary bloc shrink to 17, and now take second place to the staunchly anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Forces party, which secured a bloc of 19.”
As the Middle East Institute noted, there are now more opposition members who have stepped out of clear sectarian lines. These members have called for reforms within Lebanon.
For Hezbollah, It’s Business as Usual
Despite the results of this election, Hezbollah and its leader, Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, are not taking this opportunity for soul searching. On the contrary, it is business as usual.
The New York Times reported, “The Free Patriotic Movement of President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian bloc and an ally of Hezbollah, was among those that lost seats. The new Parliament will be tasked with replacing Mr. Aoun, 88, as president when his term ends in October.
“The party’s leader, Gebran Bassil, blamed the losses on outside forces. The party, he wrote on Twitter, was not at war with other parties, he said, but ‘with America, Israel and its allies.’”
Is There Room for a Government in Lebanon without Hezbollah?
With another 11 seats for reform politicians, there is a chance that some Hezbollah allies from the Christian camp will jump ship and join a government without Hezbollah. However, this strategy is a dangerous game.
Hezbollah is a well-organized militia supplied with modern weapons from Iran. It also has and a strong financial backing from Tehran that is happy to fund its proxy in Beirut while Iranians are demonstrating against rising food prices.
Nasrallah will have no qualms about using force and bringing back a civil war; Lebanon is not a priority for him and the only important issue on his agenda is the Shiite dominance in the region and the continued rule of the clerics in Tehran. According to the Iran Press News Agency, In Nasrallah’s post-election remarks made it clear that the situation in Lebanon hasn’t changed:
“We are proud of this great victory, especially when we see under what circumstances this victory was achieved…What is needed is peace in Lebanon and addressing the issues of concern to the people in participation and cooperation, free from competition.”
Nasrallah also addressed the accusation of Iranian interference in the election, saying, “Have you ever seen an ambassador or an employee of the Iranian embassy interfere in the elections? While we witnessed the intervention of the U.S. embassy during the elections and the Saudi ambassador was very active in the election process, too.”
The Future of Lebanon
The question now is what will happen next in Lebanon? Will the forces of the March 14 Alliance stand together, and who will assist them?
The Sunni majority is a key player in this situation. They will also need assistance from the Gulf States, but these nations failed to provide assistance in the past and tried to strong-arm the local Sunni leadership.
Ultimately, Hezbollah and Tehran need to understand that if they choose to take up arms and force their rule over Lebanon, they will pay a dear price with the European Union and the United States. Any war will have an expensive price tag, and the regime in Tehran will be stuck with the bill.