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Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group and its allies appeared to have suffered significant losses in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, a vote that comes as a severe economic crisis has plunged the majority of the population into poverty, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Preliminary returns showed that rivals of the Iran-backed group and its allies secured more seats and ousted some of Hezbollah’s traditional partners from parliament. The biggest winners appeared to be the Christian right-wing Lebanese Forces party, which was projected to win at least 20 seats in the 128-seat legislature.

Among the winners were also many independent candidates, including those from the 2019 protest movement: They secured more than 10 seats, a landmark win considering they entered the race as a fragmented bloc while facing intimidation and threats from mainstream political groups.

Analysts say Hezbollah and its main Shiite ally, the Amal group, will likely retain the 27 seats allocated to their sect, despite potentially losing the 71-seat majority it had held with its partners since 2018. In Lebanon, each of the major groups is allocated seats and positions in a complicated power scheme that was designed to retain harmony between ethnic and religious groups.

Observers noted that the results deliver a strong message to Lebanon’s ruling political class, who have held on to power despite a devastating economic collapse.

Still, others said the results indicate a deeply polarized parliament with lawmakers likely finding it difficult to reach a consensus, including forming a new government and passing reforms needed to begin Lebanon’s financial recovery.

Lebanon has been dealing with a major economic crisis since 2019, which sparked massive anti-government protests in the country. The situation has worsened because of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as a 2020 explosion in the capital that killed more than 200 people and destroyed parts of Beirut.

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