Lebanon is awaiting official results of the country’s first parliamentary elections in almost a decade, a poll that saw a significantly lower turnout than previous general elections.
Of the 3.8 million registered voters, 49.2 percent cast their ballots in Sunday’s poll, the interior ministry said, down from 54 percent in the last election in 2009.
The final results are expected to be announced in a news conference later on Monday.
However, according to unofficial preliminary results cited by politicians and Lebanese media, Hezbollah and its political allies won more than half the seats.
If confirmed by the final count, this result would boost Hezbollah politically, with parties and individuals aligned with the heavily armed group securing a simple majority in parliament.
Sunday’s vote saw 583 candidates, including a record number of 86 women, compete for 128 seats in parliament: 64 allocated to Muslims and 64 to Christians.
A new electoral law redrew the country into 15 electoral districts, further entrenching Lebanon’s foundational sectarian makeup, and introduced proportional representation.
Under the terms of the new law, voters cast two votes, one for a list of candidates and one for a single preferred candidate.
The election came after an intense campaign cycle where establishment parties hastily glued together a dizzying map of local alliances to navigate the new electoral law, which appeared to offer an opportunity for change.
Sunday’s election took place for the first time after nine years of political turbulence that left the country without a president for two years and saw parliament extend its tenure several times.
Shortly after he cast his ballot on Sunday morning, President Michel Aoun gave a brief statement to the press, addressing one of the more perplexing aspects of the new law – the preferential vote.
Aoun said the preferential vote was necessary as voters would likely prefer some candidates on the list to others.
In 2013, elections were postponed for security reasons and again in 2014 and 2017 as politicians disagreed on the particulars of a new electoral system.
Lebanon’s political paralysis over the past decade has frustrated an already disillusioned public.
The situation came to a climax in 2015 with massive protests on the streets of Beirut dubbed the “garbage crisis”, as politicians failed to deal with rubbish building up in neighbourhoods.
A popular movement that arose during the garbage crisis of 2015 was You Stink, which bolstered the efforts of Lebanon’s first political outsiders. Calling themselves Beirut Madinati, they sought votes in the capital’s municipal elections in 2016.
In less than two years, the movement has expanded into a coalition of 11 civil society groups and independents competing for seats under one banner called Kollouna Watani (Arabic for We Are All the Nation).
Despite the emergence of independent groups participating in the vote on anti-establishment platforms, some Lebanese expressed deep scepticism their efforts would succeed.