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Upcoming Vote Could Strengthen Hezbollah’s Hold over Lebanon

The upcoming Lebanese elections scheduled for next month could lead to the formation of a “Hezbollah government,” a political scientist told Agence France-Presse in a report published Wednesday.

The elections would be the first since 2009 and would be held according to Lebanon’s new election law passed last year. The 128 members of parliament have had their terms extended three times over fears of spillover from Syria’s civil war and dissatisfaction with the previous voting law.

Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist group, ended a deadlock that allowed the election of pro-Hezbollah president Michel Aoun in October 2016. This enabled the formation of government which passed the new election law.

The new law changes the method of voting, from voting for individual candidates to voting for lists of candidates. In addition, the new election scheme would replace a majoritarian system with a proportional one. The proportional apportionment of seats in parliament was a change insisted on by Hezbollah. It is believed that this will give Hezbollah an outright majority of seats in the next parliament.

Also, according to the new law, for the first time, Lebanese who live abroad will be allowed to vote.

There are 917 candidates running belonging to 77 lists across the country. Many lists are reaching out to others to form alliances after the election. Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, and currently dominates the  Lebanese government, has not announced alliances with any competing lists.

“From a western perspective, there is a concern that Hezbollah may sweep electoral seats and turn the balance in its favour,” Imad Salame, a political science professor at the Lebanese American University, told AFP. This would make any government formed after the vote “a ‘Hezbollah’ government,” Salame said.

After the election of Aoun by parliament, Hezbollah took greater control of the government as supporters of the terrorist group were given control of 17 of the 30 ministries in a newly expanded cabinet.

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