Elections in Lebanon, does political change stand a chance?

As Lebanon’s election frenzy cools down, the country has awoken to a new chapter in its dizzying political history.

After Sunday’s election result, shifts in the balance of power in the country’s 128-seat parliament and its fragile sectarian power-sharing system have occurred.

Lawmakers who for many decades were constant variables in Lebanon’s political equation were unseated. Unfamiliar faces, inspired by the country’s 2019 uprising, were elected and might now breathe new life into an often comatose political system.

But some of the election euphoria is already overshadowed by problems that continue to plague Lebanon for a third year, particularly the economy.

The Lebanese pound, with its value already decimated and down by 90 percent compared to the United States dollar, has plummeted further. Foreign reserves in the Banque du Liban or central bank are diminishing, and petrol and food prices continue to soar amidst fears of both fuel and wheat shortages.

Allies let down Hezbollah

The powerful Iran-backed Shia party Hezbollah did not lose any of its seats, but the political allies that helped it maintain a parliamentary majority suffered major blows, both from traditional rival political parties and a new anti-establishment opposition.

Notably, a Greek Orthodox seat and a Druze seat in key areas of influence in southern Lebanon went to anti-establishment opposition candidates: a medical doctor Elias Jradeh and lawyer Firas Hamdan.

Hezbollah’s key Christian political ally, the Free Patriotic Movement, is no longer the biggest Christian party.

However, neither Hezbollah nor the Free Patriotic Movement have conceded defeat, and both have declared the elections a victory.While political alliances in Lebanon can be fluid, experts say the vote was a huge blow to the once-dominant Christian party.

Hezbollah’s broad alliances were “weak and fragile”, and elections were one way of demonstrating loyalty, Carnegie Middle East Research Fellow Mohanad Hage Ali explained.

The election results might also indicate shifts in public opinion among Shia voters too, the researcher said, explaining that “alternative Shia votes” might have opted for candidates outside the Hezbollah political alliance.

Political paralysis?

As the economy continues to spiral, the new parliament does not have much time to convene and start the process of appointing a new prime minister and forming a new government. But with no parliamentary majority that traditional factions can use to assume power together, experts believe a political deadlock is possible.

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