Has Lebanese Politics Finally Freed Itself Of Iran's Influence?
Lebanon's recent elections have shrunk the legislative block led by national power-brokers Hezbollah. But will a precarious new majority be able to rid the government of the long shadow of Tehran?
The results of parliamentary elections in Lebanon, have put an end to the majority block led by Hezbollah, the paramilitary group concocted by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hezbollah and its Christian allies, the Free Patriotic Movement, led by President Michel Aoun, lost their 71 seats and will now have 62 (of a total 128 seats).
One of the big winners were the Lebanese Forces, the anti-Hezbollah Christian party, led by the former warlord Samir Geagea. Certain important Christian or Druze personalities backed by Hezbollah even lost seats.
Weakened Iranian influence in Lebanon
Hezbollah's downfall is a major defeat for Iran, which may also fail to put one of its friends as president in elections scheduled in October. It seems unlikely Aoun's successor will be another Christian friendly to the Islamic Republic, and he (or she) may well be a Christian from the opposition. That will constitute a second step after these elections in curbing the Islamic Republic's influence in Lebanon.
But the next parliament faces uncertainty, firstly in its bid to forge a working majority. There are 12 independent deputies (when only five or six were expected to win seats) known for their past criticisms of the entire political system.
As former protest leaders, they invited the Lebanese to vote their way out of their many problems. These deputies will have a crucial role in forging the 65-seat majority for one or another of the big groups.
A Lebanese woman casts her vote at a polling station during the 2022 Lebanese parliamentary election
A government without Hezbollah
The first sign of their intentions will be in the election of the parliamentary speaker, which according to set rules, must be a Shia Muslim. Since 1992, the head of the Amal party beholden to Tehran, Nabih Berri, has held the post.
Will the independents side with the Christian Party's Geagea to prevent his reelection? Will they also vote with it to form the first government in years without a member of Hezbollah?
Still, adopting an independent path could take this parliament the way of Iraq's legislature, where Iran-backed forces lost their majority but have still managed to paralyze the Iraqi political system to prevent a president or government working without their approval. Indeed, many observers in Lebanon and Iraq believe that stability in their countries first needs a basic change in Iran and while there is an Islamic Republic in charge, no regional country will be at peace.
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