Lebanese elections: Hezbollah's balancing act

• By Dave McAvoy •  May 15, 2018 

With Hezbollah further consolidating its position as the most powerful entity in Lebanon following its gains in the parliamentary elections (1)  it will seek to further integrate the state’s institutions into its resistance project while at the same time seeking to maintain the fiction that Lebanon is an independent sovereign state not under the control of an Iranian proxy militia. (2)

Over the upcoming weeks Hezbollah and its allies will form the next Lebanese government. The Party of God will on one hand seek to pull Lebanon even closer into the Syrian-Iranian Resistance Axis while trying not to cut off the country’s access to the foreign aid and loans which it desperately needs to revive the economy, (3) restore investor confidence and reduce the national debt. (4)

Hassan Nasrallah speaks after the Lebanese election on May 7

This contradiction was evident in the televised speech given by Hezbollah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah’s on 7th May. On one hand he was defiant stating that the election results disproved the news reports which suggested that a significant portion of its electorate were fed up of Hezbollah for getting involved in the Syria conflict (5) yet at the same time he presented a conciliatory position to his political opponents pointing out that Lebanon’s demographic make-up makes it impossible for one group to eliminate all the others.

 

The Hezbollah leader praised the election results as a victory for the resistance (6) adding that (7), “This high turnout [of Shia voters] was a direct response to those who were trying to say that the [support for the] Resistance was at its lowest, that it had regressed,  had weakened, that it had exhausted the people [who support it] or made them despair of it, or that they had had enough of it.  These elections sent a completely different message, even on the level of our relationship with our friends and allies, the experience which we went though sends a totally different message.”

 

Hezbollah softens its tone

Nasrallah also softened his position immediately afterwards by saying, “That’s the first part. The second is just a few words - no more - and they are that the elections are now over. Prior to the elections I was saying to the political powers, leaders, personalities who were addressing [their electorate]  I told them to relax, election day is over. The following day, no matter what the results are, the national reality which no one can deny is that we all need one another. Nobody is able to eliminate the other or drive them away. Even if there are serious differences between us, serious differences on strategy, tactics and details. The makeup of the country - if we want this country [to remain], if we want a state, if we want it to have security and stability, and if we want to deal with the problems in the standard of living, the country’s social and economic problems and to protect the successes [we’ve achieved] then we all have to cooperate.”

 

With Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA (8) and the strengthening of sanctions against Iran (9) Hezbollah could find itself facing a funding crisis and can ill afford to isolate Lebanon, put its economy at risk and lose the $11 billion worth of economic aid packages pledged to it at the recent Paris conference.(10)

 

Hezbollah’s deputy secretary general Naim Qassem echoed Nasrallah’s position by calling for a Government of National Unity stating that, “[we need to] form a government of national unity compliant with the election results, one which represents the parties in accordance to their number of seats in parliament. [We need to do this] so that together we can build Lebanon without one of us standing the in face of others due to the political differences on the Israeli plan. This is because building Lebanon means that we have to all stand together regardless if some [political figures] are deemed to be victors and others deemed to be losers. The post election period is a new stage where we are all winners when we form a government of national unity to deal with the social and economic issues which affect people and to move forward to build, reconstruct, fight corruption and work for the sake of our future generations.”(11)

 

In another speech broadcast by Hezbollah’s TV station Al Manar Qassem reinforced Hezbollah’s position in which it makes Lebanon’s state institutions subservient to it. (12) This assertion is expressed in its doctrine of "The army, the people and the resistance [Hezbollah]" in which Hezbollah calls the shots.(13)

A balancing act

 

In this speech Qassem stated that, “As for the country [of Lebanon] of which some people sing its praises. The country, its institutions, its stability and independence - were all due to the army, the people and the resistance. If it wasn’t for this tripartite then the country wouldn’t be strong, it wouldn’t even exist.

 

“To be clear, right now the resistance has become one of the pillars of Lebanon. Lebanon which wouldn’t be able to stand were it not for the tripartite of the army, the people and the resistance. These pillars are the reason for Lebanon’s strength. Allah willing they will continue and will not be affected even if they were opposed by someone who denies the light of the sun. For that’s his problem and not ours. The resistance remains and continues.” (14)

 

In the post election stage Hezbollah will have to perform a balancing act. One one hand its goals haven’t changed, it seeks to make Lebanon’s state institutions subservient to the Party of God for the ultimate goal of turning Lebanon into an Islamic Republic subservient to that of Iran’s. (15)

 

However it knows very well that it has to play the long game and maintain the fiction that Lebanon is an independent sovereign state, not one dictated to by an Iranian backed militia. (16) The dire state of Lebanon’s economy and the need for international aid necessitates this fiction. (17) This may mean that Hezbollah may benefit from a weakened Saad al-Hariri (18) remaining in his position as Prime Minister to give them political cover rather than replacing him with someone unacceptable to the west and therefore isolating the Lebanese Government, and placing the pledged $11 billion of economic aid at risk.(19)

 

  1. https://youtu.be/WMgf25GwMoA

  2.  http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/241749/lebanon-is-another-name-for-hezbollah

  3. https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-lebanon-election/hezbollah-allies-gain-in-lebanon-parliament-unofficial-results-idUKKBN1I804F

  4. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-13/imf-sounds-alarm-for-lebanon-over-its-unsustainable-debt-path

  5. https://youtu.be/npc2FQgnWPM

  6. https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-lebanon-election-hezbollah/hezbollahs-nasrallah-says-lebanon-results-are-victory-for-the-resistance-idUKKBN1I81PG

  7. https://youtu.be/QLzS0A1M3p0?t=30m37s

  8. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/us/politics/trump-speech-iran-deal.html

  9. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-usa-sanctions/us-uae-crack-down-on-network-for-smuggling-funds-to-elite-iran-group-idUSKBN1IB2I3

  10. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-economy-france/lebanon-wins-pledges-exceeding-11-billion-in-paris-idUSKCN1HD0UU

  11. http://www.almanar.com.lb/3765287

  12. http://program.almanar.com.lb/episode/13847

  13. http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/248071/american-policy-in-lebanon-isnt-policy-its-poetry

  14. http://www.almanar.com.lb/3768026

  15. https://www.memri.org/tv/archival-hassan-nasrallah-late-1980s-lebanon-should-become-part-greater-islamic-republic-ruled

  16. https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Lebanon-Whoever-you-vote-for-Hezbollah-wins-556137

  17. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-05/it-could-be-crunch-time-for-world-s-third-most-indebted-country

  18. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-politics/lebanons-hariri-replaces-chief-of-staff-after-election-setback-idUSKCN1IE08N

  19. https://www.timesofisrael.com/lebanon-donor-conference-raises-billions/

Supporters of Hezbollah rally after the results are heard in Lebanon (Courtesy)

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