Hezbollah records resounding success in southern Lebanon

AS EXPECTED, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement and its allies, last week won all 23 seats in southern Lebanon in the second phase of the country’s parliamentary elections.

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By  Massoud A. Derhally Published  June 12, 2005

AS EXPECTED, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement and its allies, last week won all 23 seats in southern Lebanon in the second phase of the country’s parliamentary elections. Voter turnout was estimated to be 45%, 17% higher than in the first phase of elections held in Beirut on May 29, which saw Saad Hariri, the 35-year-old son of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, make a clean sweep of 19 seats. The victory by the Iranian and Syrian-backed movement and its allies, including Amal, which the speaker of the parliament Nabih Berri heads, was seen as a slap in the face to the United States. It was also an affirmation of the support of the Lebanese people for the party, strengthening the case against UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which was sponsored by the US and France and calls for the disarmament of Hezbollah. Southern Lebanon is predominantly Shiite and widely supportive of Hezbollah, which is credited for ending the Israeli occupation of the region in 2000, after it waged a bloody guerrilla war against the Jewish state. Though hundreds of Hezbollah supporters swarmed into the streets of Beirut waving the group’s yellow flag in celebration, America’s view of the Shiite movement, which has played an important role in the political landscape of Lebanon, was unfazed. “It reflected the mood in much of the south but I wouldn’t call it a democratic victory,” Michael Young, a Lebanese commentator, told Arabian Business. “I think the real importance of this is that it underlines any future government in Lebanon will have an extremely difficult time in collaborating with the international community in implementing resolution 1559. It makes the implementation of 1559 much more difficult domestically because now Hezbollah is going to suggest that it has a mandate and that the people of the south voted in defence of the resistance,” he added. But Young said that this begs the question of whether it will be the people of the south alone that decide the future of Lebanon and its relations with Israel. “I think that we should ask the Lebanese population as a whole. Hezbollah and Amal have used the election in the south to say, ‘Look, the people of the south have spoken, they are behind resistance’,” Young said. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said: “In terms of Hezbollah, I think our views are well known and they remain unchanged. You have a Security Council resolution that calls for the disarming of groups like Hezbollah and that remains our view. Hezbollah, as you are well aware, is a terrorist organisation.” Newly elected Hezbollah MP Mohammed Raad said: “The South has democratically expressed its national choice to back the resistance. And it did so without any instructions from anyone on how to practice democracy.” Raad added: “If democracy is the measure used to rule on all sides, then Hezbollah has been democratically backed by all the Lebanese people, especially in the South. The US needs to stop using democracy as a slogan to back Israel’s terrorism and occupation in the region. The resistance abides by UN rules and the UN deems Hezbollah a legitimate resistance force.” Hezbollah has firmly rejected UN Resolution 1559 and vowed to fight “to the death” against any attempts to disarm it. The elections, which began on May 29, are scheduled for two more Sundays ending on June 19. On June 12, Young predicts there will be fierce competition in Mount Lebanon between Michel Aoun's supporters and other Christian groups and a victory for Hezbollah in the northern Bekaa Valley. Young expects that to be followed by a victory in the western Bekaa and intense rivalry in the city of Zahle between both major lists, one backed by the supporters of Saad Hariri, the other by supporters of Aoun. The following week, on June 19, Young predicts a large victory for the Hariris and their allies in north Lebanon. The anti-Syrian opposition hopes the elections will end Damascus’ control of the 128-member legislature.

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