Fears grow over negative impact of Hezbollah victory in Lebanon elections

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Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has warned that Lebanon will be deprived of promised regional and international aid if Hezbollah and its allies control the country by winning a parliamentary majority in the elections set for May 15.

“There are no signs that Arab and international aid will be forthcoming if Hezbollah continues to control Lebanon,” Siniora told Al Arabiya English on Monday.

In another statement carried earlier in the day by Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency, Siniora, a harsh critic of Hezbollah, said: “What does it mean if Hezbollah and its allies gain a majority in Parliament? Amid Hezbollah’s control [of Parliament], will there be a possibility for any salvation, reforms, and Lebanon’s recovery after it was pushed into this deep abyss: a kidnapped state, a fully collapsing economy, the threat of depositors losing their money and the need for reforms in all aspects of life such as electricity, water, food, medicine and education? Definitely, no.”

“With the expansion of the control of Hezbollah and the sectarian and confessional parties allied with it, this will be at the expense of the Lebanese state and its institutions, which will lead to the continued implementation of Iran’s agenda in the region. In this case, there will be no aid and no Arab or international support,” Siniora added.

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Although he is not running in the upcoming polls, Siniora is supporting an 11-member electoral list that will compete to gain mainly Sunni seats in parliament in the Beirut district after former Prime Minister Saad Hariri decided to remove himself from political life.

A professor of economics and international relations agreed with Siniora, warning that an election victory for Hezbollah and its allies will further complicate the Lebanese crises and impede efforts for the country’s economic rescue.

“A victory by Hezbollah and its allies in the elections is bound to block the road to the possibility of Lebanon’s economic salvation. Consequently, the situation will continue to deteriorate and Lebanon will no longer exist on the map because the economic collapse means the state’s inability to survive, while it is already unable to survive,” Dr. Sami Nader, a professor of economics and international relations at Universite St. Joseph in Beirut, told Al Arabiya English.

“When a central authority collapses, the entire country heads toward disintegration. Frankly speaking, Hezbollah’s victory will further complicate the situation in Lebanon,” said Nader, who is also the director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, a Beirut-based think tank.

The concern over the outcome of the elections comes as Lebanon’s embattled government, grappling with a series of crises, received a new lease of life from two positive developments earlier this month, raising hopes for the country to begin emerging from its deepest economic depression.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has warned of a swathe of problems facing the country if deprived of promised regional and international aid on the back of a parliamentary election victory for Hezbollah on May 15. (Stock image)
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has warned of a swathe of problems facing the country if deprived of promised regional and international aid on the back of a parliamentary election victory for Hezbollah on May 15. (Stock image)

First, Gulf Arab states announced their intention to restore ties with Lebanon, ending a five-month boycott. Then a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was signed which should lead to a bailout program to rescue the country’s crumbling economy burdened with over $90 billion in public debt.

Yet, it remains to be seen whether Lebanon will fulfill its obligations by implementing long-overdue reforms demanded by the IMF and international donors as a condition for unlocking billions of dollars in promised aid.

These developments come amid a warning by Hezbollah that moves are afoot to delay the elections to prevent it from gaining a majority in the next parliament.

In a televised speech earlier this month, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah claimed that results of surveys conducted by polling companies indicated that the group and its allies would retain the majority they currently hold in the outgoing parliament.

Nasrallah went on to accuse the US and other foreign embassies in Beirut of seeking to “disrupt” the elections by delaying them for several months. It’s in the hope that the Future Movement bloc, with the largest Sunni representation in Parliament, will review its decision not to field candidates or participate in the polls deemed “crucial” by the international community and most of the Lebanese people, he claimed.

Lebanon is reeling from the worst monetary slump in the country’s history following the collapse of the economy and banking sector. There is hope that the elections will bring political change to steer the nation out of the economic crisis, described by the World Bank as one of the world’s worst since the 1850s. It is posing the gravest threat to its stability since the 1975-90 Civil War.

But, according to a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, the elections’ outcome will not change anything.

“When it comes to Lebanon, expect the unexpected, even though I do not think the elections will be postponed. Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah is probably warning about postponing the elections to prod Shia voters to go to the polls in large numbers.” Dr. Hilal Khashan explained to Al Arabiya English.

He added that the polls will not solve the key problems from which Gulf Arab states have been complaining, namely Hezbollah’s growing influence in Lebanon and its intervention in regional conflicts.

“Hezbollah and its allies already control the Parliament. Even in the unlikely event that Hezbollah and its allies do not win a parliamentary majority, nothing will change in Lebanon,” Khashan said. “Lebanese politics is not determined in the parliament, which is only a rubber stamp for cabinet compromises and accommodation. I do not see the elections as providing a panacea for Lebanon and its financial collapse. The elections will not resolve the key issues that the Gulf countries have against Hezbollah - its military component and ties with Iran,” he added.

Khashan suggested that regardless of who wins a parliamentary majority, Lebanon will remain under Iran’s control via Hezbollah. “No matter who emerges victorious from the general elections, Iran will continue to control Lebanon via Hezbollah,” Khashan said. “Let me reiterate, the Lebanese parliament is not a decision-making body and it does not differ from other Arab parliaments, it ratifies and endorses agreements made outside its walls.”

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