BEIRUT: Lebanon’s powerful parliament speaker Nabih Berri said Tuesday that the general election’s results vindicated a formula in which both the army and the Hezbollah militia guarantee the country’s protection.
Polls held on Sunday, the first in nine years, saw Hezbollah’s allies in parliament garner enough seats to block any attempt by its political foes in parliament to make it disarm.
“The truth is that the results support the equation in Lebanon, we call it the golden equation: the army, the people, the resistance,” Berri told AFP in an interview at his residence in south Lebanon.
Often described as Lebanon’s shrewdest political player, 80-year-old Berri has held the position of speaker since 1992 and also heads the influential Shiite movement Amal.
According to provisional results for Sunday’s vote, his party scored 16 seats out of parliament’s 128, three more than its ally Hezbollah.
Unlike Amal and all other factions, Hezbollah did not give up its weapons when the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990 and its arsenal has now grown to rival the national army’s.
The group’s weapons cache is the most divisive issue in Lebanese politics, but Amal and other MPs allied to Hezbollah should be in a position to fend off any challenge in parliament.
Hezbollah and its allies argue the army is too weak to defend the country from Israel. Its critics say Hezbollah is the main reason Israel would attack Lebanon and should disarm if it wants to protect the country.
Amal’s popularity among the Shiite community, dominant in areas near Lebanon’s southern border with Israel, grew when the Jewish state invaded in 1982.
“We’re a country that Israel has occupied, and it remains on our land... It still has ambitions for our water, oil, gas, land,” he said.
A deadly conflict between Israel and Hezbollah erupted in 2006 and fears of an even deadlier and more devastating war have cast an abiding gloom over Lebanon.
Hezbollah was born of an Amal splinter and the groups were rivals during the civil war. Decades later, they find themselves politically aligned on most issues and have been repeatedly hailed as the winning “Shiite duo” after Sunday’s vote.