Hezbollah’s Influence Looms Over Upcoming Lebanese Elections

(New York, N.Y.) — On May 15, Lebanon will conclude its first parliamentary election since the country’s economic collapse in 2019 and the deadly explosion at the Port of Beirut in August 2020. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for the vote to be “free, fair, transparent and inclusive,” given the extent of political corruption in the country. In particular, Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), has played a significant and influential role in Lebanese politics and the government.

Guterres’s statement follows a September 2021 non-binding resolution adopted by the European Parliament recognizing Hezbollah’s role in destabilizing Lebanon through the control of key ministries in the government, its terrorist designation by multiple Western and Middle East countries by several EU member states, and ideological allegiance to Iran. Additionally, regional observers remain pessimistic that Lebanon’s new parliamentary elections will pull the country out from its economic and social crises.

Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Hezbollah expert David Daoud pointed to the group’s influence within Lebanon as a critical factor that would undermine chances of genuine economic and governmental reform: “Through its continued possession of unregulated arms, Hezbollah dominates Lebanon’s decisions of war and peace. Nonetheless, the group routinely subordinates Lebanon’s national interests in favor of Iran’s, resulting in devastating outcomes for Lebanon. As in previous elections, public voices and parliamentary candidates have called this arrangement into question and demanded that Hezbollah disarm. It remains unclear, however, if parliamentary candidates critical of Hezbollah have gained enough popular traction to be elected in sufficient numbers, and if so, that they will succeed in curtailing the group’s armed strength and activities.”  

“Hezbollah is not the singular cause of Lebanon’s dysfunction and economic collapse. The sources of that run much deeper. But the group is both a symptom of those maladies intrinsic to the Lebanese system as it is currently constituted and the primary impediment to remedying them. Hezbollah feeds off and therefore fuels Lebanon’s corruption and sectarianism. Many Lebanese are becoming increasingly aware of this dynamic. It remains to be seen whether the upcoming parliamentary elections, whatever their outcome, will produce positive results concerning curtailing Hezbollah’s activities or arsenal—though, the chances are admittedly very low. However, what is clear is that Lebanon cannot begin to recover until the group’s grip over the country is loosened,” Daoud continued.

To read CEP’s resource Hezbollah, please click here.

To read CEP’s resource Lebanon, please click here.

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