Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 01:45 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 01:45 | SYDNEY

Hizbullah didn't lose, exactly


Rodger Shanahan


9 June 2009 07:44

While the Lebanese election results have been touted as a defeat for Hizbullah, it is more correct to term it a defeat for Hizbullah's Christian allies. With parliamentary representation allocated by sectarian identity that bears no resemblance to current demographic realities and results in dramatic Shi'a under-representation, Hizbullah's candidates were all elected and the organisation triumphed in the areas where the Shi'a are a majority.

In the areas where it hoped to pick up additional seats courtesy of its Christian allies, Hizbullah failed to do so. This is a salient lesson for the organisation that it has a long way to go before it can claim any substantive cross-sectarian support on its own or in concert with its political allies — not that it was under any illusions that it could. And at the end of the day, with a well trained and equipped militia, and a large and loyal sectarian support base, the odd political setback is eminently survivable. Hizbullah's political timeframe stretches much further than a 3-4 year electoral cycles, after all.
In accordance with Lebanon's consensus political system, it is virtually assured that a government of national unity will emerge, but the question of whether the Hizbullah-led opposition will still be allowed its veto power in cabinet will be the main focus over the next few weeks. There are a number of scenarios possible, as this news article neatly summarises.

The biggest loser from this election is the opportunist Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement — having first been rebuffed in his desire to become president as a result of the Doha Accord, he has now seen the Christian community express their dissatisfaction with his move to ally himself with Hizbullah.

This was perhaps the best result that the West could legitimately have hoped to emerge from the election — a victory for the pro-West March 14 coalition, a national unity government (although the Hizbullah veto issue is still a major source of tension that could yet destabilise the state again), and a divisive Christian political leader delivered a significant, if not terminal, rebuff by his own community.

Photo by Flickr user Madmonk, used under a Creative Commons license.