Elections in Lebanon Boost Hezbollah's Clout

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Supporters of an outside candidate forecast to win a seat in parliament in Lebanon's national elections have gathered outside the Interior Ministry to protest what they say are clear signs of fraud to deny her victory.

"This is a great political and moral victory for the resistance option that protects the sovereignty of the country", Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address.

Hezbollah-backed Sunnis did well in the cities of Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon, strongholds of Hariri's Future Movement, the unofficial results showed.

Despite the disappointing turnout among an electorate that included around 800,000 people who were too young to vote in the previous general polls, the new electoral law that allows smaller parties to run helped a civil society list break into parliament.

Hezbollah and its political affiliates secured 67 seats in the Lebanese parliament, bringing them to a simple majority, according to unofficial results from both politicians like Hariri and Lebanese news outlets.

Formed as a resistance movement during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the early 1980s, Hezbollah is today a political, military and social organisation that wields considerable power in the country.

Lebanon's unique brand of sectarian-driven, power-sharing politics mean rival factions often end up in the same government, as is the case now where Hezbollah is represented in Hariri's cabinet. Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said the results will be announced on Monday.

It is designated a terrorist group by Western states and Israel, with which it fought a war in 2006, and several of its members are accused of being behind the 2005 assassination of Mr Hariri's father Rafik - himself a former Lebanese prime minister.

Hezbollah and its allies appear set to take at least 47 seats in the 128-seat parliament, which would enable them to veto any laws the Shiite group opposes.

Hezbollah, which was created in the 1980s to fight against Israel and now battles in Syria alongside regime forces, is listed as a terror organisation by the United States.

But many, including Machnouk, blamed the new, complex law which redrew constituency districts for the tepid turnout particularly in Beirut. Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement now has 21 seats, six less than what they had, while Hariri's Future Movement now holds 20 seats, a sharp drop from the 32 seats they won in 2009.

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Government forces opened fire to break up the protests, director general of police Shesh Paul Vaid said. On the other hand, India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.

This election was also the first time in Lebanese history that electoral candidates promoted gay rights.

Turnout was 49.2 percent, according to officials.

Faisal Karami, the son of the late pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami, won a seat for the first time.

The biggest victor so far is the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces that nearly doubled its number of seats to 15.

"We had hoped for a better result, it's true".

"The biggest swing vote will be President Aoun's group, which will move among the other blocs".

Independent candidates running against the political establishment won two seats in Beirut.

He said now there are a lot of problems in the chaotic Middle East, so the peaceful Lebanese election sets a good example for achieving new changes and reconciliation not in military ways, but in political ways.

Elsewhere in the country, weird "collusive" local lists were formed among traditional establishment foes to ensure the three main religious blocs of Shi'ites, Sunnis and Christians wouldn't be disrupted too much by the new electoral law.

"The problem with this election was a lot of people didn't understand it", he said.