Elections in Lebanon: “Hezbollah’s” Chance to Strengthen Shi’a Positions


For the first time in ten years, parliamentary elections are being held in Lebanon. The country’s parliament is empowered to elect the president and the council of ministers, as well as having the power to confirm laws.

Problems with the elections

The elections were postponed several times because of a political crisis. What is more, the country went without a president for two years (from 2014 to 2016), until Michel Aoun took the post of head of state. There were also problems with the state budget – the parliament only accepted it in 2017 after twelve years of discussions.

Voting on the current parliamentary elections is held according to a proportional system. Depending on the results, each party will receive a number of seats in parliament, proportional to the received number of votes.


Several parties are laying claim to seats in parliament:

-the “Amal” movement is made up of Shiites. Members of the party hold pro-Russian positions and have ties to the official government in Damascus.

- “Hezbollah” (separated from “Amal” in the 1980’s and is now a part of the 8 March Coalition). Supports Iranian and Syrian positions. The party participated in the liberation of Syria from ISIS (a terrorist organisation that has been banned in Russia).

- The pro-Western and pro-Saudi 14 March coalition (the date is connected to the “Cedar Revolution” against Syrian troops). The movement consists of “Al-Mustakbal” (Sunnis led by prime minister Saad Hariri) and “Kataib” (Maronite Christians).

The religious factor and clans

A semblance of a multiconfessional status quo is upheld in Lebanon: experts note, that the proportional system is meant to ease interconfessional problems during the elections. What is more, a “clannish” way of thought has a strong influence on the country’s political processes.

It is interesting to note, that in Lebanon, a Christian can run for president, a Sunni Muslim for prime minister, and a representative of the Shiite community for speaker of the house. In addition, the religious factor is also considered during the division of seats in parliament: equally and according to the confessional principle. However, conflicts of a religious nature still occur: the last period of heavy fighting was from 1975 to 1990, and battles between “Hezbollah” Shiites and “Al-Mustakbal” Sunnis in 2008 resulted in the deaths of tens of people.

“Hezbollah’s” role

The US, Israel, and Canada consider “Hezbollah” to be a terrorist organisation. The Americans keep introducing new sanctions against members of the organisation, and representatives of the US government (for example, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin) are calling to make the conflict with the Shiites a priority. In 2016, the members of “Hezbollah” were added to the blacklist of the League of Arab Nations.

The Americans often equivocate the “threats” of Iran and “Hezbollah” and praise the official government of Lebanon, seeing as, according to the US, Hariri is fighting against the organisation’s “destructive influence”.

An illustration: Hariri found himself involved in a highly unusual situation when, while visiting Saudi Arabia, he resigned and aired his fear about the threat to his life that was posed by “Hezbollah” members. He eventually remained on his post after he had returned to his homeland, but this was clearly a propaganda move.

Other allies of “Hezbollah” are also under attack, including Russia: for example, a suggestion was made in the US Congress in October 2017 about a new series of sanctions against Moscow; supporters of the sanctions cited Russian military support for “Hezbollah” in Syria. 

Despite foreign and internal pressure, the party has a chance to strengthen its positions. Among the movements demands are an annulation of confessional quotes and a program of social reform (the cancelling of taxes for the poor, a just division of “resource” income etc.).


Naturally, external players are also fighting for influence in the region: Iran and Saudi Arabia are the main players, with the US and Israel coming in second.

“Hezbollah” is for a rapprochement with Iran and the Shia path: nothing has changed in this area over the years. Lebanon’s competitors (especially the Saudis) are afraid of the formation and strengthening of the “Shia arch” (through Iran and Syria up to Lebanon) that the party is fighting for.

Hariri has double citizenship (Lebanese and Saudi Arabian) and, accordingly, he lobbies for Saudi interests. This is linked to the Hariri family’s economic issues; the president’s father (and former prime minister) founded a construction company in Saudi Arabia) that Hariri junior has inherited. Hariri will continue to influence Saudi influence on Lebanon in the future.
Geopolitica.ru has written earlier about US interests in the region and the reason for attacks on “Hezbollah”.

Problems of a territorial nature with Israel continue to lie open, as territorial claims from both sides remained after the 2006 war. However, it is important to note, that Tel-Aviv’s view of Teheran is similar to the Saudi view: Iran is seen as a competitor, and “Hezbollah” as a threat.

Thus, Lebanon will continue to be a field of various external influences. Changes in the status quo are possible, but, in general, the country will continue to be split into different confessional and clan groups: otherwise, the country risks a serious civil war.

Having taken all of the above into account, the Saudis will still have a set of pressure instruments should there be any electoral surprises: experts are indicating the possibility of diplomatic “backstabs” and an elementary economic boycott (a “Qatar scenario”).

Translated from the Russian by V.A.V.