The Atlantic

The Secret to Hezbollah's Electoral Success

With the party’s lock on the Shia vote in Lebanon, its economic failures seem to matter little.
Source: Mohamed Azakir / Reuters

BAALBEK, LEBANON—Hezbollah’s yellow flags stretched for miles along the highway to Baalbek, a Lebanese city near the frontier with Syria. They hung from every light post, interspersed with images of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the party. In some, he smiled; in others, he wore a grave expression and saluted. The message to voters on the party’s banners was simple: We protect, and we build.  

Ghaleb Yaghi, a former mayor of Baalbek who ran in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections this past weekend, its first in nine years, took issue with both claims. (The current parliament twice extended its term, citing security fears related to the war in neighboring Syria.) Hezbollah, he said while leaning back on a sofa in his campaign headquarters, had been a “political failure,” too consumed with fighting wars across the Middle East to develop a strategy for improving the lives of citizens. Its fighters trained Shia insurgents to fight against American soldiers in Iraq, and are into an exchange of mortar fire—which has deterred tourism and investment. It is also one of Lebanon’s most impoverished areas, where roughly 40 percent of residents below the poverty line and more than half are unemployed.

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