|Saad Hariri , leader of the pro-Western March 14 coalition, claimed victory in a closely-fought election race against an alliance headed by the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah [AFP]|
Results on Wednesday confirmed that the pro-western March 14 coalition retained its parliamentary majority in Lebanon’s polls.
They were victorious over an opposition alliance led by Hezbollah, a Shia group, which maintains the country’s strongest military force.
Lebanon has repeatedly been used as a proxy for regional powers’ battles and in 2006 Israel fought a war against Hezbollah, which has links to Iran, Hamas in the occupied Palestinian territories and Syria.
Here is some of the international reaction to the outcome of the parliamentary poll.
Newspapers in Syria, which has in the past provided logistical support to Hezbollah, aired allegations of vote-buying.
Syria’s ruling Al-Baath party newspaper reported that the March 14 coalition “has been accused of having bought votes and using bribery” and that “this could pave the way to large-scale falsification of the election”.
The independent Al-Watan daily commented: “The most important political ballot in Lebanon’s history … and politically-tainted money has had the last word.”
The Gaza Strip, occupied Palestinian territories
The de facto rulers in Gaza, Hamas, who are continuing a resistance against Israel from whom they faced a three week offensive ending in January, pressed for opposition to the Jewish nation.
Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas’ political wing, said: “We wish for Lebanon, the Lebanese people and all the winners in these elections to safeguard Lebanon as a strong Arab country and to keep it steadfast facing the Israeli occupation.”
Israel asserted the need for the new government to uphold regional security.
Yigal Palmor, Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman, said: “Any government in Lebanon must be responsible for strengthening security and stability on Lebanese territory and of course stop arms smuggling into Lebanon as the UN security Council has requested time and again.
“It is quite natural that the government of Lebanon – be its components what they may – will be held responsible for any military or otherwise hostile activity that will emanate from its territory.”
France, former colonial power in Lebanon
A statement from the foreign ministry called on all factions to continue to work together as they have since the formation of a government of national unity in July last year.
It said: “France, a friend of all Lebanese people, hopes that the climate of dialogue that has prevailed over the past year will continue in the interest of stability and of the unity of Lebanon as a whole.”
US President Barack Obama said that the high turnout in the elections showed Lebanon’s commitment to democracy, and desire for security and prosperity.
“The United States will continue to support a sovereign and independent Lebanon, committed to peace,” Obama said.
“It is our sincere hope that the next government will continue along the path towards building a sovereign, independent and stable Lebanon.”
Jeffery Feltman, US acting assistant secretary of state, told Al Jazeera that Washington would not influence who would be in any new government but that they would not deal with Hezbollah were they to be included.
“The US does not deal with Hezbollah, we will not deal with Hezbollah as long as Hezbollah maintains arms in defiance of the international security council resolutions.
“Hezbollah has been on the terrorist list in the US since 1997 … it is a long-standing policy and it is based on a number of things. The threat that Hezbollah poses to Lebanon’s security. The arms that Hezbollah maintains despite security council resolutions. The threat that Hezbollah poses to the Lebanese people themselves as proven last May on the streets of Beirut.
“I don’t think there is a Hezbollah political wing, Hezbollah’s own spokesman said that there is no distinction between their military and political wing.
“Our policy towards Hezbollah is that Hezbollah should disarm and play its role politically according to the rules of the game.
“Hezbollah does have strength among certain sections of the population. So, Hezbollah is going to play an important role in the parliament, perhaps Hezbollah will be in government depending on how the government comes together.
“So the question is why is Hezbollah maintaining an arsenal that is in violation of Lebanon’s own Ta’if agreement and violation of Lebanon’s security council agreement.
“The best defence of Lebanon’s sovereignty should be the state of Lebanon, it should be the institutions of the state … You should have a state that is accountable to the Lebanese people, that is in charge of Lebanon’s sovereignty … Hezbollah doesn’t need to be a state within a state. Hezbollah can play a role in the state itself according to the state rules and Lebanon’s own Ta’if constitution.”