The New Arab's live coverage of the latest from the Lebanese elections concludes for today.
Lebanon Elections: Hezbollah allies dealt blow, 'revolution' candidates make gains
Welcome to The New Arab’s coverage of Lebanon’s General Election 2022 held on May 15, 2022. Follow live updates, results, analyses, and opinion in our special hub here.
Iran-backed Hezbollah has been dealt a blow in Lebanon's parliamentary election with preliminary results showing losses for some of its oldest allies and the Saudi-aligned Lebanese Forces party saying it had gained seats, set to become the largest Christian parliamentary bloc.
With votes still being counted, the final make-up of the 128-member parliament has yet to emerge. The heavily armed Shia group Hezbollah and its allies won a majority of 71 seats when Lebanon last voted in 2018.
Reform-minded, opposition candidates challenging the ruling elite have also made significant gains, winning at least 10 seats in different electoral districts. This comes after the unprecedented October 2019 uprising.
Since Lebanon last voted, the country has been rocked by an economic meltdown that the World Bank has blamed on the ruling class, and by a massive explosion at Beirut's port in August 2020, which has killed over 220 people.
A second opposition candidate has won in south Lebanon's third electoral district.
Firas Hamdan managed to beat Marwan Kheireddine. Both were running for the Druze seat in the district. This comes after Elias Jraydi from the same opposition list won on Sunday.
The wins are considered unprecedented in a region tightly controlled by Hezbollah and its allies.
South Lebanon 3 is made up of four administrative districts - Nabatiyeh, Hasbaya, Marjaayoun, Bint Jbeil - and the vast majority is Shia.
Interior Minister Bassam al-Mawlawi gave a rundown on election results during a press conference Monday.
Both new and older candidates from traditional parties won in several districts, as the establishment remained strong in some areas. Shia parties Hezbollah and the Amal Movement preserved all their 27 seats, while Hezbollah ally the Free Patriotic Movement lost several seats. It previously had a large bloc of 29 MPs, now well below 20.
The Progressive Socialist Party led by Walid Junblatt retained its seven seats, while other small parties either kept their seats - numbering 2 to 4 - or lost all together.
The Lebanese Forces came out as the bigger winner, winning at least 20 seats up from 14.
New, reform-minded candidates from opposition alliances also managed to win seats. Prominent wins included south Lebanon's Nabatiyeh district, Mount Lebanon's Chouf-Aley district, the Western Beqaa district as well as Beirut.
Results are expected to bring in more changes throughout Monday evening.
A tight race has pitted the Lebanese Forces' Melhem Riachi against independent candidate and journalist Jad Ghosn in Mount Lebanon's Metn district.
Dozens waited anxiously at the justice palace in the Beirut suburb of Jdeideh for final results, as more ballot boxes came in and votes were counted. Ghosn complained of possible election fraud.
Interior Minister Bassam al-Mawlawi held a press conference Monday, responding to claims that ballot boxes went missing in some districts.
Mawlawi said the boxes that were used in the diaspora elections on May 6 and 8 were on their way to centres to be counted, denying that the votes had gone missing or were not to be included in the count.
He also gave a break down of final turnout figures in some districts:
48.80% in Tyre-Zahrani, 49.5% in Baalbek-Hermel, 47.39% in Baabda, 42.47% in Rachaya-Western Beqaa.
Mawlawi also announced the winners in these districts. Opposition candidate Yassine Yassine won in Western Beqaa, while the Lebanese Forces managed to hold onto their seat in Baalbek despite a fierce race with Hezbollah.
After hours of tensions and waiting for votes to be recounted in fear of possible election fraud, a candidate for the opposition "Sahlona wel Jabal" list was announced a winner on Monday.
Cheered on by hundreds of supporters anticipating the final result, and after a brief clash with army soldiers, Yassine Yassine, running for a seat in the Western Beqaa district, was confirmed a winner.
"Sahlona wel Jabal" had threatened to take legal action.
Long-time establishment figure and parliament deputy speaker Elie Ferzli lost.
An opposition list in eastern Beirut said they were close to winning a second seat despite a ballot box from the diaspora "missing".
Paula Yaacoubian from the "Li Wattani" list told local media that they were "sure" a second candidate could make it. Yaacoubian won in 2018 but resigned after the Beirut blast in August 2020.
The "Together Towards Change" list in the south also claimed that diaspora ballot boxes were not being counted which could boost their chances of winning a second seat, after one winner was announced on Sunday.
The opposition group made history after winning a seat in the region considered the heartland of Iran-backed Hezbollah.
Results became clearer on Monday in many districts, while the commission in charge of counting diaspora votes said the count could take longer as more ballots arrive.
Over 130,000 Lebanese expats voted in 58 countries on May 6 and 8. They are believed to have tipped the balance in favour of reformist, opposition groups.
A town in Western Beqaa witnessed tensions Monday after an opposition group accused their rivals of election fraud.
A heavy army presence and supporters of the "Sahlona wel Jabal" list gathered outside a government office in Jub Jannine as votes were checked and recounted.
Yassine Yassine from "Sahlona wel Jabal" had reportedly gained enough votes to win the second Sunni seat in the district, but numbers tipped in favour of another list after ballot boxes arrived from Syria.
Legal representatives of "Sahlona wel Jabal" appealed the results, demanding a recount and accusing rival lists of election fraud by bringing in fake votes.
The Lebanese diaspora voted on May 6 and 8.
Ballot boxes are still being counted in some electoral districts, including diaspora votes.
Votes had to be recounted in some centres to make sure of the winning candidates as the race was close. In the Western Beqaa, a legal representative of the opposition "Sahlona wel Jabal" list objected to ballot boxes that came from Syria - where Lebanese expats voted on May 6.
Appeals are expected.
Reformist, opposition candidates made gains in a number of districts across the country.
A number of candidates from Saad Hariri's Future Movement party lost in Sunday's vote, preliminary results have shown, dealing a blow to establishment MPs.
Hadi Hobeich, Sami Fatfat and Mustafa Alloush, all from north Lebanon, were not able to gain enough votes to stay in parliament.
Former prime minister Hariri announced his withdrawal from politics in January and said he would not run in the polls this year. Many of his mainly Sunni supporters decided to boycott the election.
Nadim Houry, executive director of Arab Reform Initiative, said the results of 14 or 15 seats would determine the majority for the next parliament, as votes are still counted.
"You are going to have two blocs opposed to each other - on the one hand Hezbollah and its allies, and on the other the Lebanese Forces and its allies, and in the middle these new voices that will enter," he said.
"This is a clear loss for the [Hezbollah-allied] Free Patriotic Movement. They maintain a bloc but they lost a lot of seats and the biggest beneficiary is the Lebanese Forces. Samir Geagea has emerged as the new Christian strongman."
Reform-minded and opposition candidates celebrated cautiously as electoral projections saw them winning far more seats anticipated. Most notably, long-time Hezbollah ally MP Assaad Hardan lost his seat in the South to an independent candidate, Elias Jradi.
Other prominent establishment MPs were ousted from their seats, such as Parliament Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli in the Beqaa.
The opposition "United For Change" list in Mount Lebanon's Chouf-Aley district said they had won at least three seats, an unexpected result. Hezbollah-allied Druze politician Talal Arslan lost his seat to Mark Daou, running on the "United For Change" list.
The Lebanese Forces, a Christian party and Hezbollah rival, won 20 seats in parliament, according to the party’s projections.
This would make it the largest bloc in parliament, replacing Gebran Bassoul’s Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party and Hezbollah ally, which previously held the most amount of seats.
Good morning, we are resuming our live blog on the 2022 Lebanese elections
Voter turnout was at 37.52% as of 6.30 pm (3.30 pm GMT). The number is expected to rise as the remaining voters cast their ballots and the last ballot boxes are sealed.
It will be hours before results become clear in some districts.
"I am voting for Beirut For Change. They are the only people that are outside the establishment. There are a lot of people who once you look behind the curtain, are also part of the establishment. Almost 75% of the people have woken up and become aware," another Beirut resident told The New Arab."My priority in this election is to see new faces. And I want these new faces to be able to have an effect, because there were new faces last time, but they weren’t able to do anything. If they were the majority, they will be able to do things. We went down to the streets and protested and made a revolution, but nothing happened. Maybe if they are within the parliament, they will be able to do things," he said, in reference to the nationwide protests in 2019. "Beirut Tawajuh are a good group of people, but they are the old crew. We want new people. Even Saad Hariri, we went down to the streets against him, even though we voted for him. We went down to protest against everyone, and everyone means everyone. Just because we’re Sunni doesn’t man we have to stick to Saad Hariri. No we want new faces." "The people that are not voting are hurting us and hurting themselves. But hopefully they won’t be too many in number."
Many of Hariri's supporters have boycotted the elections after their party leader withdrew from politics in January this year, deciding not to run in the polls.
"We dream of a Lebanon that is always lit up. That is a light house for tourists. Like it was. A lighthouse for capital so that everyone comes to invest in us."
"I voted for someone who leans to Hariri. His resignation impacted the whole world. He’s the greatest of all of them. He’s a good human, even though he is a good guy he can’t do anything because of all those monsters that are around him. There are many monsters around him. He didn’t have good people around him. If he did, Lebanon wouldn’t be in the place it is now," Ahmad from Tareeq al-Jadeedah told The New Arab."It was hard for us to choose someone new. I chose someone who had the same spirit as Hariri, who used to be aligned with him." "Schools are the most important thing. Of course the dollar is a very important thing, our currency turned terrible ... Now it’s hard to enter the hospital, we don’t have anything," Ahmad added. "Everyone is complicit in the (Aug. 4 2020) Port blast."
"God help this country. We don’t know who is well and who is bad in this country," Mounah from Beirut's Tareeq al-Jadeedah told The New Arab."I voted for the person who always serves me, because I have a husband who is sick, and everyone is suffering. He’s the one who opens the door to me, who always opens the door to me. We need someone to help us," she said.
Clientelism has for long acted as an alternative to the state, which has allowed the ruling elite to grip onto power and control different sectors and institutions."The issues of justice and the port are the most important things. They will be held accountable," Mounah said. Asked about how former prime minister Saad Hariri’s absence affected her vote, she said "I will always love him."
Tareeq al-Jadeedah is considered a stronghold of Hariri and his Future Movement party.
Voting has ended for Lebanon's parliamentary elections. The final voter turnout is still not clear
The interior ministry said the voter turnout was 32.04% by 5 pm (2 pm GMT), only two hours before the polls are scheduled to close.
A candidate running on an opposition list in the Western Beqaa-Rachaya district was held at a polling station after documenting a violation.
Hatem al-Kheshen running on the "Sahlona wel Jabal" list was locked in a room after protesting against a Hezbollah representative who took over the electoral process at the voting centre, a legal representative of the opposition list told The New Arab.
It was one of the several violations recorded during the long election day by the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections.
He was forced to delete a picture that he took showing the violation, and was reportedly held by police after threatening to take action, but was released after 10-15 minutes.
With less than two hours before polling stations close at 7 pm (4 pm GMT) the voter turnout remained incredibly low.
The highest turnout recorded was in the Jbeil-Keserwen district, while the lowest was in the Tripoli-Minieh-Donnieh district.
Travel costs, a boycott by supporters of the former premier Saad Hariri and a spike in emigration in recent years are contributing factors.
Interior Minister Bassam al-Mawlawi said only constituents present at the polling station past 7 pm will be allowed to cast their votes, however anyone outside the polling station will not be let in past that time.
"We want our children to return, our children that we raised," a woman in Beirut told The New Arab.
"Hopefully everything in our country returns back to what it used to be, so our kids don't have to emigrate anymore. My daughter is finishing her last year in high school, and she just told me that she doesn't want to go to university in Lebanon. I raised her for 18 years just so she can leave?"
Lebanon has seen an exodus in the past three years, as more youth leave the country in search of job opportunities abroad amid the country's economic depression.
"My thinking is different from the generation before me. They voted for that [political class]. But now we've woken up, we're more aware We want change!" she told The New Arab.
The communications person for Najat Aoun, a popular independent candidate running on the United For Change list in Mount Lebanon's Chouf district, tells The New Arab they are optimistic.
They said they are being stopped on the streets and welcomed, people telling them they voted for Aoun, adding that they were optimistic they will get two seats in the district.
United For Change is considered the main opposition coalition in the district, bringing together a number of well known activists. Najat Aoun is a university professor and environmental activist.
Chouf-Aley is considered a stronghold of Druze leader Walid Junblatt, who is allied with the Christian Lebanese Forces. A rival list, backed by Hezbollah, is also looking to make gains in the district.
The interior ministry said the voter turnout was at 25% as of 3PM local time (12PM GMT). The number was considered to be very low still, only 4 hours before polling stations closed
The numbers were considered to still be very low only 4 hours before polling stations closed.
In 2018 just less than 50% of eligble voters cast their ballots in Lebanon. However this year expatriate voters were up by nearly three times compared to 2018.
Pierre Abu Assi, a candidate and current MP from the Lebanese Forces, was reportedly subjected to an attempted car-ramming in a Mount Lebanon town, where three of his companions were wounded, according to NOW Lebanon.
Abu Assi said he will not press charges against the alleged attacker.
Reports of the attempted car-ramming could not be verified.
Interior Minister Bassam al-Mawlawi denied that violations were taking place in the electoral process after being asked by reporters about what authorities were doing to address these issues.
Speaking to MTV Lebanon from Beirut, Mawlawi said those claiming violations were taking place needed to show proof and not listen to rumours, despite many pictures and videos going viral showing grave violations from places such as Baalbek, where the Shia Hezbollah and Amal Movement attacked rival candidates and delegates, or were helping or watching constituents vote.
Baalbek, part of the Beqaa 3 electoral district, recorded some of the most serious violations.
He later said that security was under control despite the problems happening.
The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) reported several violations Sunday across different regions.
Ali Sleem from LADE said their members were being subjected to harassment or physical assault in several towns and villages up and down the country, adding that the monitoring group was preparing a report to hand over to the Interior Ministry.
Sleem said some of the worst violations were taking place in Baalbek, largely under the control of the Shia Hezbollah and the Amal Movement parties.
Many supporters of Sunni leader and former prime minister Saad Hariri have decided to boycott the elections, after Hariri announced he was suspending his work in politics in January this year.
His Future Movement party is not running in the elections, and those from the party who are running were forced to announce their resignation.
Three times Prime Minister Saad Hariri' supporters, known as smurfs on Twitter, have installed an inflatable pool in Tarik El Jdideh to boycott the elections. This move is surely an effective tool to send a message. Masterminds. pic.twitter.com/cPTJWj3O1k— Omar Tamo (@OmarTamo19) May 15, 2022
The interior ministry said voter turnout reached 14.6% as off 11 am (8 am GMT).
The voter turnout in the last elections in 2018 fell slightly short of 50%. Many are hoping this year will be higher and reflect the large turnout on May 6 and 8, when over 130,000 Lebanese voted in 58 countries across the world.
Reformist, opposition groups are counting on the high turnout to be able to make gains as they challenge the ruling elite.
Local MTV Lebanon reported that nearly half of the polling stations in the Beirut 2 district (West Beirut) saw power cuts, but a large voter turnout.
Lebanon has struggled to find ways to supply electricity for Sunday's vote, as the country suffers from an acute energy crisis. The energy sector accounts for over half of the state's financial losses in the last three decades at least.
Lebanon is divided into 15 electoral districts under the new election law, approved in 2017 and used for the first time in 2018.
While the law does include proportional representation as opposed to the majoritarian law used before - which gives independents a better chance at winning - many believe it was designed in a way to suit the ruling elite.
Many districts are grouped together to include communities of the same sect. Voters are allowed to pick one preferred candidate from the list they choose.
A total of 103 electoral lists are competing for 128 seats in the parliament, which is divided equally between the country’s diverse Muslim and Christian denominations.
Lebanese poured online on Sunday to share pictures after they voted in the country's parliamentary election.
Expatriates voted in 58 countries on May 6 and 8, where voter turnout reached over 60%.
Violations were recorded in 3 polling stations, including one in Greater Beirut, south Lebanon and the Beqaa, against people with disabilities.
Officers at the scene refused to man tents set up for inclusive voting, forcing people with disabilities to be carried up the stairs by volunteers, the president of the Lebanese Union for People with Physical Disabilities and chairwoman of the Arab Forum for the Rights of People with Disabilities told The New Arab.
Reports emerging from various electoral districts - particularly those with heavy presence of the Shia Hezbollah and Amal Movement parties - of election monitors being "threatened" or kicked out from polling stations.
The interior ministry's Election Supervisory Board, as well as the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) and EU delegates are observing the elections.
LADE had already complained of violations in some electoral districts in the early hours, such as "pen and ballot supplies lacking in polling stations, media outlets unable to report from some centres despite obtaining permits."
LADE independent election observers had to pull out of polling stations in south Lebanon & Baalbeck, after Hezbollah & Amal supporters threatened them.— Aya Iskandarani (@Aya_Isk) May 15, 2022
“Lade asks the ministry of interior & security forces to facilitate the work of observers & guarantee their safety.” pic.twitter.com/gOSp6X3dzb
Polling stations opened across the country at 7 am local time (4 am GMT). There were reports that some polling stations took longer to open.
Minor incidents were recorded. A video of a man being dragged by security in a Beirut suburb and put in a car went viral on social media. He had allegedly sworn at the president, but this could not be confirmed.
Lebanese began sharing pictures of themselves voting with their inked fingers - some inked their middle finger to express anger at the ruling elite which they blame for driving the country to economic ruins.