Lebanon PM Hariri says party loses third of seats

Beirut (AFP) –


Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced Monday that his Sunni-dominated political movement had lost a third of its seats in parliament following the country's first general election in nine years.

Hariri said the results, which have not yet been officially announced, credit his Future Movement with 21 of parliament's 128 seats, a drop from the 33 it controlled in the outgoing legislature.

The prime minister admitted that he had hoped for a stronger showing but said he remained happy with the result, which contrasts with the expected gains made by the rival camp led by the Shiite group Hezbollah.

The Future Movement "has been given a large bloc of 21 lawmakers in parliament," a relaxed-looking Hariri told a large group of local and foreign journalists at his Beirut residence.

"We were betting on a better result and a wider bloc with better Christian and Shiite participation," he said.

Turnout stood at a lowly 49 percent, according to official figures released after Sunday's vote by the interior ministry.

Hariri, and other senior politicians, blamed the unexpectedly weak turnout on a new electoral law which appears to have confused or disappointed voters.

"The problem with this election: a lot of people didn't understand it," he said when asked about the turnout.