Hezbollah’s Grip — On Lebanon’s Parliamentary Election

Results of Lebanon’s May 6 parliamentary election point to the mounting frustration among voters with the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri. In recent years, Lebanon has had a host of administrative and regional challenges while the government remained largely ineffective in tackling them. There were protests in Beirut and elsewhere over a breakdown of waste management; there is an acute power shortage; the economy is in shambles; and the inward flight of Syrian refugees over the past seven years has put public infrastructure under further strain. Regional tensions are high as Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful Shia movement that has been designated by the U.S. and Israel as a terrorist organisation, is involved in the Syrian civil war. In post-civil war Lebanon, the political class is largely divided into two blocs — the Iran-allied Shia bloc led by Hezbollah that has joined hands with Christian parties, and the Sunni bloc led by Mr. Hariri that has close ties with Saudi Arabia and the West. During the campaign, both sides whipped up this sectarian narrative — Mr. Hariri said Lebanon’s Arab identity was being threatened by Hezbollah’s Iran links, while the Hezbollah-allied parties targeted Saudi Arabia and the West besides attacking the government for its failures. In the event, Mr. Hariri’s Future Movement suffered a big setback. Its strength in the 128-member parliament shrank from 33 to 21. While Hezbollah will retain the 13 seats it had in the outgoing legislature, its allies have gained. President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement gained six more, while the number of independent candidates linked to Hezbollah doubled to eight, making the alliance the largest parliamentary bloc. Lebanon has a unique, confessional system in which the Prime Minister must be a Sunni, the President a Christian and the Parliament Speaker a Shia. Being the leader of the largest Sunni bloc, Mr. Hariri could retain his job as Prime Minister despite the electoral setback. But Hezbollah and its allies will have a greater say in government-formation. Hezbollah could also stall government measures that target its clout, a key demand from Mr. Hariri’s regional allies. Mr. Hariri is in a tight spot. The Saudis are not happy with his inability to rein in Hezbollah. Last year Mr. Hariri was summoned to Riyadh, where he announced his resignation. Though he withdrew the resignation later, his ties with his Saudi patrons appear to be far from mended. With the regional fault lines between Iran and its rivals set to sharpen further after the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and rising Tehran-Tel Aviv tensions, it is bound to reflect on Lebanese politics. Mr. Hariri has to find a balance between his domestic agenda and regional politics, provide basic services to the public, lift the economy and restore voters’ faith in him — a tall ask given Lebanon’s fractured polity and Mr. Hariri’s own record.



Meaning: Gradually increasing.

Example: Mounting anxiety/excitement.

Synonyms: Increase, Intensify

Antonyms: Decrease


Meaning: The feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to change or achieve something.

Example: “tears of frustration rolled down her cheeks”

Synonyms: Annoyance, Anger

Antonyms: Satisfaction


Meaning: Make determined efforts to deal with (a problem or difficult task).

Example: “police have launched an initiative to tackle rising crime”

Synonyms: Approach, Handle


Meaning: A failure of a relationship or system.

Example: “a breakdown in military discipline”

Synonyms: Failure, Collapse


Meaning: (of an unpleasant or unwelcome situation or phenomenon) present or experienced to a severe or intense degree.

Example: “an acute housing shortage”

Synonyms: Severe, Critical

Antonyms: Negligible


Meaning: A state of total disorder.

Example: “my career was in a shambles”

Synonyms: Chaos, Confusion


Meaning: A force tending to pull or stretch something to an extreme or damaging degree.

Example: “the usual type of chair puts an enormous strain on the spine”

Synonyms: Tension, Shear


Meaning: Officially give a specified status or name to.

Example: “the Wye Valley is designated an area of outstanding natural beauty”

Synonyms: Classify, Pronounce

Whipped up

Meaning: To encourage or cause people to have strong feelings about something.

Example: She criticized the organization for trying to whip up anti-immigrant prejudice.

Synonyms: Excited, Interested


Meaning: Cause (someone or something) to be vulnerable or at risk; endanger.

Example: “a broken finger threatened his career”

Synonyms: Endanger, Menace


Meaning: Become or make smaller in size or amount.

Example: “the workforce shrank to a thousand”

Synonyms: Diminish, Reduce

Antonyms: Expand, Increase


Meaning: Relating to religious confession.

Example: “the priest leaned forward in his best confessional manner”


Meaning: A reversal or check in progress.

Example: “a serious setback for the peace process”

Synonyms: Problem, Difficulty

Antonyms: Breakthrough


Meaning: Influence or power, especially in politics or business.

Example: “I knew she carried a lot of clout”

Synonyms: Influence, Power


Meaning: Keep under control; restrain.

Example: “with an effort, she reined back her impatience”

Synonyms: Restrain, Check


Meaning: Call people to attend (a meeting).

Example: “he summoned a meeting of head delegates”

Synonyms: Assemble, Convene


Meaning: A distinguished person who takes an honorary position in a charity.

Example: “the Mental Health Foundation, of which Her Royal Highness is Patron”


Meaning: Improve (an unpleasant situation).

Example: “quarrels could be mended by talking”

Synonyms: Remedy, Settle


Meaning: A plan of things to be done or problems to be addressed.

Example: “he vowed to put jobs at the top of his agenda”

Synonyms: Schedule, Programme


Meaning: To divide an organization or society, or (of an organization or society) to be divided.

Example: Intense disagreement over economic policy risks fracturing the coalition government.

Synonyms: Problems


Meaning: An organized society; a state as a political entity.

Example: “the period in which West Germany was a distinct polity”