Hezbollah allies set for gains in Lebanon parliament-unofficial results

Men abound while women are rarely to be spotted on the lists of the mainstream parties competing for power in Lebanon's elections. India Stoughton  The National

Lebanon's parliamentary election raises hopes for changes

Few countries are as vulnerable to the Middle East's mayhem as Lebanon, which has taken in a million refugees from the catastrophic war in neighbouring Syria and seen the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah militia embroiled in that war.

The US and Israel have designated the group a terrorist organization.

The vote is held under a new proportional system, which divides the country into 15 separate electoral constituencies.

Turnout was 49.2%, compared to 54% in 2009, Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said.

A Lebanese supporter of the Christian Lebanese Forces party drives a auto flying their flag along the Dbayeh highway between the coastal city of Jounieh and the capital Beirut.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

Earlier in the day, Lebanese President Michel Aoun tweeted: "I was surprised by the low turnout and the exercise of the right to vote".

Analysts are closely watching the performance of Hariri's Future Movement party and that of the Shi'ite Hezbollah group and its allies. The pro-Hezbollah al-Akhbar newspaper called it "the slap" for Hariri on its front page. "No one new is coming (to power)".

Even though the pro-Western bloc, headed by current Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, apparently suffered a blow, al-Hariri is still the candidate with the highest chances of serving as the country's next prime minister.

A new election law agreed on a year ago has opened cracks through which rivals within the community could potentially challenge Hezbollah, and political newcomers and independents could try to break through the monopoly long enjoyed by the political dynasties.

Independent candidates running against the political establishment won two seats in Beirut.

Hezbollah supporters drove through the streets of Baalbeck in a convoy of cars, decked out with the group's flags and photos of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

Lebanon held a parliamentary election Sunday - its first in almost a decade.

The Future Movement is supported by Saudi Arabia, which has been trying to move Mr. Hariri solidly into its orbit.

But that "March 14" alliance has disintegrated and Saudi Arabia has switched its attention and resources to confronting Iran in other parts of the region, notably Yemen.

In an interview with leading Hezbollah candidate Ali Ammar Sunday morning, a Lebanese journalist grilled him on corruption allegations against a political ally.

The country has been wracked by political paralysis and the knock-on effects of the Syrian civil war since its last vote nine years prior. In May 2013, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah began openly sending its fighters to back Assad and since then has taken part in nearly every major battle in the country.

Youssef Tormoch, 31, a Christian who works at a bank, said he voted for a civil-society candidate - a candidate not loyal to a particular sectarian party and its traditional ideology - because the Lebanese parliament needs a jolt.

Hariri, who heads a national unity government that includes members of Hezbollah, is widely expected to return as prime minister and recreate that coalition following Sunday's election.

Enhanced Hezbollah sway over Lebanon will likely alarm the United States, which arms and trains the Lebanese army.

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