Surprise: Hezbollah Defeated in Lebanon Vote


hezbollahA surprise election victory by an anti-Syrian coalition in Lebanon against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies was officially confirmed today. Results declared by Interior Minister Ziad Baroud showed Saad Hariri’s pro-Western bloc had won 71 of parliament’s 128 seats, against 57 for an opposition alliance that groups Shiite factions Hezbollah and Amal with Christian leader Michel Aoun. Hariri’s total includes three independents who ran on his lists in yesterday’s election, which many had predicted would produce a slim victory for Hezbollah and its partners.Supporters celebrated into the early hours. The result renewed Hariri’s mandate four years after an election that followed the exit of Syrian troops from Lebanon amid an outcry over the assassination of his statesman father Rafik Hariri.

The vote was a blow to Syria and Iran, which support Hezbollah, and welcome news for the United States, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which back the “March 14” bloc, named after the date of a huge rally against Syria’s military presence in 2005.

Hezbollah warned of a crisis if attempts are made to disarm the Shiite organization.

Mohamed Raad, head of the Hezbollah faction in the Lebanese parliament, told the French news agency that the anti-Syrian camp’s win “would lead to a continuation of political crisis with our camp, unless that camp sticks to the principle that Hezbollah’s arms should not be touched.

“The results show that the crisis continues, unless the current majority seeks to change its behavior,” he added.

The United States had no immediate comment, but France, another backer of the bloc, praised the “smooth functioning” of the election, which went off in mostly peaceful style.

“This vote, marked by a high level of participation, illustrates the vitality of Lebanese democracy,” the French Foreign Ministry said. It expressed confidence that President Michel Suleiman would ensure swift formation of a new government that “takes the country on the path of reforms.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres also commented on the election results, saying, “The results do not change the fact that Hezbollah remains a state within a state, an army within an army, and prevents Lebanon’s economic recovery.”

Earlier today, the Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement in response to the victory of the anti-Syrian block in Lebanese elections saying, “Any government to be formed in Beirut must make sure that Lebanon is not used as a base for violence against Israel and Israelis.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during a Labor faction meeting, “The victory of the moderate coalition is certainly a positive sign. But the true test of the government to emerge will be in its results and ability mainly to enforce order and curb Hizbullah activity in south Lebanon. Israel continues to follow the developments there and will examine its attitude towards the new Lebanese government according to these results.”

“The Lebanese government must act boost stability and security in its territory, put an end to weapon smuggling and implement the UN Security Council’s resolutions, starting with resolutions 1559 and 1701. Israel views Lebanon as responsible for all military and other activity that comes from its territory.”

{Yair Israel/Ynet}