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Lebanon's elections: whose victory?

16 May 2018 - 17:09
Source: Shane Armas Kopisto/flickr

The full text of this opinion was published on the website of openDemocracy on 16 May 2018.

Recent parliamentary elections in Lebanon may look like a straight-out victory for the country’s Shi’a parties, but things are not that simple. 

If one takes international media headlines at face value, the outcome of Lebanon’s parliamentary election is clear: Hezbollah, the country’s militant Shi’a movement, won by a landslide. The assessment of many pundits that Lebanon simply is an outpost of the Iranian revolutionary guard on the Mediterranean has now become final. Or, as Naftali Bennett, the leader of Israel’s Jewish Home party, put it with his trademark subtlety: “The State of Israel will not differentiate between the sovereign State of Lebanon and Hezbollah, and will view Lebanon as responsible for any action from within its territory".

A quick glance at the election results could justify the assumption of Hezbollah’s electoral dominance. Its electoral list with Amal (another Shi’a party) controls slightly over a third of the country’s 128-seat parliament (43 seats). If one adds the seats won by Hezbollah’s allies, the Free Patriotic Movement (a Maronite Christian party) and a few minor independents, it now commands a parliamentary majority of 67 seats. 

The political discontent of the country’s Sunnis is arguably the more important message from these elections 

Seductively simple as they appear, these figures however hide more complex realities of fragmentation, political alliances and the significant risk that electoral success in Lebanon carries. 

As Lebanon’s political settlement comes under growing pressure, the political discontent of the country’s Sunnis is arguably the more important message from these elections.