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Expect more of the same in Lebanon

Despite the lack of faith in Hezbollah, the terrorist group will continue doing as it pleases in Lebanon, which will remain a helpless, failing state.

Hezbollah and Lebanese flags. Credit: Arthur Sarradin.
Hezbollah and Lebanese flags. Credit: Arthur Sarradin.
Eyal Zisser
Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.

In Lebanon, the votes are still being counted in the wake of Sunday’s parliamentary elections, but preliminary results indicate that not much will change in the beleaguered country. Hezbollah will continue to do as it pleases while it leans on a corrupt elite class—a local version of “mafia” families in the U.S.—which will remain in control of Lebanese society and state affairs.

These notable families exploit and exacerbate ethnic tensions to maintain their grip on power. They sometimes fight among themselves and after every election, we see new faces emerge—but these are just younger versions of their predecessors, or sometimes the relatives of a rival family who managed to defeat their competitors in elections.

The essence, however, remains unchanged: Lebanon is a weak, helpless country, a failing state, as a result of which, the Lebanese elites will continue to do whatever they want.

We must bear in mind that Lebanon’s election system is complex and even many Lebanese people struggle to understand it. Elections are regional and ethnic. In other words, every region elects its representatives, but these are divided among the different ethnic groups by a predetermined allocation. In such a reality, there’s no chance of a popular groundswell. No desire for change, of which we’ve seen plenty in recent years, will translate into anything tangible after election day.

Hezbollah and its supporters appear to have managed to secure the necessary majority for a government. After all, members of the Sunni Hariri family, Hezbollah’s main challenger in recent years, decided not to partake in the fixed game and didn’t run at all in the elections, thus leaving Lebanon’s Sunnis—almost one-third of the population—without effective leadership.

However, at the end of the day, these elections are a blow to Hezbollah from which it will struggle to recover: First, the turnout was low—just 41% of eligible voters bothered to show up. In the country’s Shi’ite areas, voter turnout was even lower. This can be viewed as an expression of anger toward and lack of faith in Hezbollah, which failed in its efforts to rally popular support.

Second, many of Hezbollah’s allies among other ethnic groups lost in the regions in which they ran against rivals who criticized their alliance with Hezbollah. Among the Christians, for example, President Michel Aoun’s party was trounced, as were Hezbollah’s Druze allies.

These aren’t the results Hezbollah hoped for, but it can live with them as long as its control over the country remains intact. In the end, despite those in Lebanon who have celebrated isolated victories, this is a poor man’s joy, and what was will continue to be in Lebanon.

Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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