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Hezbollah weapons at the heart of Lebanon's elections Sunday

Hezbollah weapons at the heart of Lebanon's elections Sunday

BAALBEK, Lebanon (AP) — It was a ocean of yellow while thousands of men, women with every one other accompanied by children waving Hezbollah flags with every one other accompanied by wearing the group's trademark yellow caps rallied on a colossus conspiracy of land inside the of long ago eastern city of Baalbek inside support of the laboriously armed militant group.

One following another, numerous attendees vowed to ballot Sunday for the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah with every one other accompanied by its allies inside Lebanon's closely watched parliamentary elections, rejecting some try to disarm the strong group.

Despite a devastating monetary collapse with every one other accompanied by multiple other crises gripping Lebanon — the culmination of decades of corruption with every one other accompanied by mismanagement — the greatly divisive matter of Hezbollah's weapons has been at the center of the ballot for a new 128-member parliament.

Disarming the category has dominated political campaigns among almost all of the group's opponents. Those include Western-backed mainstream political groups with every one other accompanied by independents who played a part inside nationwide protests since the begin of the monetary meltdown inside October 2019.

"This is the biggest misinformation campaign. Why? Because they are implementing America's policy opposed to the resistance weapons," older Hezbollah official Hussein Haj Hassan told The Associated Press on Friday ahead of the rally inside Baalbek.

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Hezbollah was the only category officially allowed to retain its weapons following the 1975-90 secular war since it was fighting Israeli forces occupying parts of south Lebanon. In 2000, Israel withdrew from Lebanon nevertheless Hezbollah with every one other accompanied by others inside the small Mediterranean nation insisted its weapons were obligatory to protect it opposed to Israel, which has one of the strongest armies inside the region.

Hezbollah has since fought a monthlong war accompanied by Israel inside 2006 that ended inside a sketch with every one other accompanied by following the begin of the dispute inside neighboring Syria the Iran-backed category sent thousands of fighters to fight alongside President Bashar Assad's forces helping him point the stability of ability inside his favor.

Hezbollah's rivals speak its weapons with every one other accompanied by its backing of geographical forces such while Assad's with every one other accompanied by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels inside Yemen have harmed Lebanon's relations accompanied by oil-rich Persian Gulf nations. Those nations have categorized the Lebanese category while a terrorist organization with every one other accompanied by withheld crucial monetary support for the country.

Haj Hassan, a legislator since 1996 with every one other accompanied by a Cabinet minister trio times, said claims that Hezbollah is in charge of for Lebanon's collapse were "a large lie."

"They forgot the political system, monetary system, corruption, the war inside Syria with every one other accompanied by its effects on Lebanon with every one other accompanied by they forgot the American sanctions," he said at his place of residence near Baalbek.

The bespectacled 62-year-old lost set of two brothers who fought for Hezbollah throughout Lebanon's secular war with every one other accompanied by a nephew inside Syria.

Hezbollah maintains its weapons are to protect Lebanon with every one other accompanied by not for inner use. But the category used them opposed to rivals inside May 2008 inside the worst fighting at the hour dated inside numerous years. The Hezbollah insulting came following the management of then-Hezbollah competitor Fouad Saniora decided to dismantle the group's military telecommunications network.

"No Lebanese category should have the just to exist armed while other Lebanese are not," said Samy Gemayel, head of the right-wing Kataeb party, inside comments to the local LBC stopping place Friday night.

The ballot this year is the earliest following the monetary collapse, described by the World Bank while one of the worst the world has witnessed inside additional than 150 years. It is too the earliest since the August 2020 blast at Beirut's port that killed additional than 200, injured thousands with every one other accompanied by caused largescale harm inside the capital.

Three former Cabinet ministers allied accompanied by Hezbollah were charged inside the port blast investigation nevertheless have refused to show up for questioning by the investigative judge. Hezbollah's leader has blasted the judge with every one other accompanied by called for his replacement, with every one other accompanied by the investigation has been suspended for months following legal challenges by politicians.

Parliamentary elections are held on one occasion every one quartet years with every one other accompanied by the last ballot inside 2018 gave a majority of seats to Hezbollah with every one other accompanied by its allies accompanied by 71 legislators.

As Lebanon sinks deeper into poverty, numerous Lebanese have been additional publicly critical of Hezbollah. They clasp in charge of the category — down accompanied by the ruling class — for the devastating, multiple crises plaguing the country, including a theatrical currency crash with every one other accompanied by severe shortages inside medicine with every one other accompanied by fuel.

Some expect its main Christian ally, the Free Patriotic Movement founded by President Michel Aoun, to mislay seats. Others have expressed disappointment at Hezbollah's unshakable alliance accompanied by Nabih Berri, Lebanon's longtime parliament speaker seen by numerous while the godfather of Lebanon's corrupt sectarian-based with every one other accompanied by elite-dominated political system.

Still, a come first in by Hezbollah is not inside doubt. The category has a firm base with every one other accompanied by masterfully maneuvers its alliances with every one other accompanied by the electoral system. Intimidation ensures no indeed Shiite threat emerges: Three Shiite candidates allied accompanied by the Saudi-backed Lebanese Forces category withdrew from the contest inside the Baalbek neighbourhood within days.

In a Shiite village inside southern Lebanon, residents were attacked last month while they headed to attend a rally for candidates running opposed to Hezbollah. Weapons were fired inside the air to disrupt a gathering by a Shiite cleric running opposed to the Hezbollah-led alliance inside Baalbek.

Hezbollah was blamed for intimidating the Shiite candidates, a claim Haj Hassan denied.

"They don't want opposition within the (Shiite) sect. This is clear," said Hilal Khashan, political science professor at the American University of Beirut. Khashan added that Hezbollah with every one other accompanied by its Shiite associate the Amal category of Berri are trying to carry on accompanied by jurisdiction of the 27 seats allocated for the sect.

Little alter is expected from the election while mainstream political parties with every one other accompanied by politicians carry on accompanied by to exist strong while opposition candidates are fractured. Still, Western-backed mainstream parties are hoping to strip the parliamentary majority from Hezbollah, while numerous independents are hoping to shatter into and not here of orthodox communal gathering lists with every one other accompanied by candidates.

The ballot comes following a strong Sunni leader, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, suspended his labour inside politics. Some have warned this may assist Hezbollah's Sunni allies to come first in additional seats.

"I believe concerning the ballot carton while a dash of protection for us," said nurse Hoda Falah throughout the rally inside Baalbek. Falah said Hezbollah's weapons have defended eastern Lebanon from attacks by the Islamic State category with every one other accompanied by al-Qaida-linked militants over the years.

Top Hezbollah official Nabil Kaouk said inside a speech last month that the elections will show that his category enjoys the most support inside the small nation. He claimed that money flowing from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates with every one other accompanied by the U.S. to their "tools" inside Lebanon will not alter results.

"May 15 will demonstrate that the American scheme to mark the resistance is sterile with every one other accompanied by they will only harvest disappointments," Kaouk said.

Hezbollah weapons at the heart of Lebanon's elections Sunday

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