As of 12.00 Beirut time on the 8th of May, the official results of the 2018 Lebanese parliamentary elections have still not been released, a fact which seems puzzling in a nation of 6 million where the election turn out was 49%. However, all of the major parties have spoken of the figures they have been informed of and thus far, all of the public statements from party officials match the unofficial figures that have been released by journalists. The following is a breakdown of parliamentary seats according to reliable figures from journalist Nour Samaha:
Free Patriotic Movement + official partners (Maronite)=29 seats
Future Movement (Sunni)=20 seats
Amal Movement (Shi’a)= 16 seats
Lebanese Forces (Maronite)=14 seats
Hezbollah (Shi’a)=13 seats
Progressive Socialist Party=9
Independents aligned with March 8 Alliance=8
Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (pro-Resistance/Syrian nationalist)=3
Non-aligned independents and others=6
*note, the sectarian alignments of these parties is not absolute as they often enjoy cross-sectarian support and some field cross-sectarian candidates during elections for both strategic and ideological reasons.
Unofficial breakdown of seats in #Lebanon's parliament (still subject to change)-
Lebanon Strong bloc (FPM & allies): 29
Independent March 8 bloc: 8
Mikati & allies: 4
— Nour Samaha نور سماحة (@Nour_Samaha) May 8, 2018
How Lebanese elections work
Before delving into the meaning results, while many including the benchmark Resistance party Hezbollah have been celebrating, one might wonder why with their number parliamentary seats at 13 – a number far short of a majority, Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has nevertheless described the election as the greatest day in the history of his party.
The reason for this has everything to do with the electoral laws and conventions of Lebanon. According to the 1989 Taif Agreement which helped to end the Lebanese Civil War, of the 128 possible seats in the Lebanese Parliament, 64 must be reserved for Christians while another equal set of 64 must be reserved for Muslim + Druze parties. Furthermore, within each group of 64, a certain number of seats are reserved for every sect of a given religion. The following is the breakdown of seats according to religious sect as mandated by the Taif Agreement:
Muslim bloc of 64:
Christian bloc of 64:
Melkite (Greek Catholic)=8
Armenian Apostolic Orthodox=5
Other Christian linked minorities=1
Thus it is impossible for any one of Lebanon’s necessarily sectarian parties to win anything close to an outright majority and even within the seats reserved for all Muslims and all Christians, it is often typical for one party to lead but not necessarily dominate, based on seats reserved for confessional and ethni-confessional minorities.
Beyond mandatory parliamentary parity between Christian and Muslim + Druze parties, this year’s election is the first in which multi-member constituencies will be elected on the basis of proportional representation. Prior to this, members of parliament were selected by allowing voters in multi-member constituencies to vote as many times as there were seats in their constituency. For example, under the old system in a hypothetical four member constituency, a voter could vote for members of the same party four individual times. Under the new system, members will be selected on the basis of the proportion of the total votes they received in any given constituency.
The new system will likely help parties that represent a confessional (or ethno-confessional) minority in any given constituency to reach a possible threshold of victory (in terms of gaining parliamentary representation) that would have been more difficult under the old system. Realistically, this could mean that in a hypothetical Sunni dominated constituency with a sizeable Shi’a minority, while the leading Sunni party Future Movement would likely have the most votes, one could still see a leading Shi’a party, the Amal Movement for example, gain some parliamentary representation in such a constituency.
Why the Resistance Won by numbers
When the combined total of the parties which formed the core of the pro-Resistance/pro-Syria March 8 Alliance is weighed against the combined total of the anti-Resistance and in many cases pro-Saudi/US parties that formed the core of the March 14 Alliance, one can quickly see while Resistance bulwark Hezbollah was celebrating the vote.
When one adds together the seats won by the Free Patriotic Movement, Amal, Hezbollah, independents aligned with the March 8 Alliance, the SSNP, and Marada, one has a grand total of 72 seats, comfortably beyond the 64 seat threshold to form a majority coalition. Thus, while Hezbollah’s number of seats has not increased dramatically since the last election, when combined with its de-facto and official allies, the total number of pro-Resistance seats has increased dramatically from the 53 seats the Match 8 pro-Resistance bloc commanded after the last election in 2009.
By contrast, the total number of seats for parties associated with the anti-Resistance March 14 Alliance has been reduced to somewhere around 37, or perhaps more depending on how many independents and smaller parties the Hariri led Future Movement can incite into an opposition coalition.
Why the Resistance Won in hearts and minds
While the new proportional representation system was expected to help parties that have a strong minority basis in parts of Lebanon otherwise dominated by a slim sectarian majority, the results have thus far shown that the pro-Resistance/March 8 parties went far above and beyond the expected boost as a result of a fairer electoral system.
One of the reasons for this is that it would would appear that parties like Hezbollah, Amal and the Free Patriotic movement did a far better job of attracting support from outside their normal respective sectarian bases vis-a-vis the Future Movement, Lebanese Forces and other March 14 Alliance parties.
What this means is that in spite of pressure form the US, Saudi Arabia and threats from the Zionist regime to the south, Lebanon voted for parties that seek to bolster an anti-terror alliance with Syria, stand up for Lebanon’s territorial integrity and commercial interests against “Israeli” blackmail and shun Saudi and western influence. If anything, Saudi Arabia’s attempt to create a larger presence in Saudi Arabia by effectively kidnapping Premier Hariri and making him an “offer he couldn’t refuse” has backfired spectacularly as more Lebanese opted to vote for those who resist such bullying techniques rather than those who capitulate to them.
While the Zionist regime has already stated that it views the electoral results in such a way that it will no longer distinguish the state of Lebanon from the party Hezbollah, in reality Tel Aviv always took this attitude. To the credit of Lebanese voters, the objective reality behind the increasingly hysterical “Israeli” rhetoric has been understood and rightly ignored.
The results of the election solidify the general trajectory of Lebanon as a country that feels comfortable having good relations with Syria, Iraq and Iran rather than with the Saudi led/de-facto pro-Zionist bloc of the southern regions of the Arab world. Of course, a minority of Lebanese did vote for anti-Syrian parties as well as parties which take the Saudi line of being soft on Zionism. Because of this, it is important that Lebanon remains a sovereign state that remains friends with all those with an open door but subservient to none. This is after all another element of the Resistance political programme in Lebanon that is often ignored by the wider world.
Ultimately, Saad Hariri will likely remain Prime Minister as the office is reserved for a Sunni Muslim and he still leads the largest Sunni party. However, the majority of the parliament will now shape a coalition government that will be dominated by the victors of the 2018 election. After years of civil war and political uncertainty, Lebanon has finally spoken with a majoritarian voice about its future political direction.