Lebanese head to polls to elect first new parliament in nine years

Lebanese head to polls to elect first new parliament in nine years

Lebanese will head to the polls for the first time in nine years today to elect a new parliament. Despite

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Photo: Joseph Eid/ Getty Images

Lebanese will head to the polls for the first time in nine years today to elect a new parliament.

Despite a complicated overhaul of the electoral process that has seen 976 candidates throw their hats in the ring—including a record number of women—the established political elite is set to dominate the election. Indeed, incumbent Prime Minister Saad Hariri is expected to retain his position, although with no single party likely to win more than 13% of seats, it could take months for Lebanon’s next government to form.

Today’s election could also see Hezbollah make political gains. While the paramilitary group will be hoping its party and allies win enough seats for a majority, or at least the one third required to block decisions, Hezbollah could also benefit from low turnout.

The more seats Hezbollah wins, the more influence it will have over foreign and defence policy, which could see Lebanon align more closely with Iran. With such an outcome intolerable for Saudi Arabia and particularly Israel, expect a strong showing from Hezbollah to ramp up regional tensions and increase the chance of direct, inter-state conflict.