Lebanon's pro-western coalition has been pronounced the winner of Sunday's parliamentary election, following a tough race against the pro-Syrian Hezbollah and its allies.
Lebanon's Interior Minister Ziad Baroud announced the results of Sunday's parliamentary elections, district by district, proclaiming the pro-Western March 14 coalition the winner with 71 seats in the 128-member parliament.
The pro-Syrian Hezbollah, which many analysts predicted would secure a majority in the parliament, came away with 57 seats.
Supporters of the Western-backed coalition set off fireworks and honked their car horns as it became clear they were the winners.
Hezbollah Member of Parliament Mohammed Raad reacted to the loss by saying it meant the political crisis that has gripped the country would be prolonged.
Former prime minister Najib Miqati, whose name had been mentioned by some analysts to form the next government if Hezbollah had won, said he is optimistic that a formula would be found to govern the country:
Now, it is clear, he says, that there is a majority and an opposition. This is not an unusual situation. I am certain, he insists, that from past experience, based on the constitution, the national reconciliation pact, and the wisdom of our president, we will come up with some formula to form a new government. What is important, he concludes, is that the winners be more modest, and the losers be more accepting of democracy.
The head of the March 14 parliamentary majority, Saad Hariri, called for his supporters to be magnanimous in victory and urged them to avoid all provocations:
He urges his supporters, and his allies to make this victory noble and not to be dragged into provocations or anything that would destabilize Lebanon. He also called for his supporters to remove all election posters, starting tomorrow, to avoid conflict.
Interior Minister Ziad Baroud told journalists that any complaints about the election would be handled by the constitutional council. He also noted that he was pleased by how smoothly the election went, refusing to take credit for his own role:
"I believe it is not actually what the ministry did, it is what the whole Lebanese population, and all these groups are part of this process and this success, and I hope it is going to give Lebanon the same image it has tried to keep as a democracy - as a genuine democracy - not an imported one, and I hope in this region of the world, Lebanon will still be an example," he said.
It is now up to Lebanon President Michel Suleiman to designate the man who will form the next government. Some analysts suggest that outgoing Prime Minister Fouad Saniora may be reappointed, but his candidacy could be seen as provocative by Hezbollah.
Majority leader Saad Hariri, whose name is also being mentioned to replace Saniora, said Sunday he would invite Hezbollah to form a national unity government, if his side won, but would not give the group the veto power it holds in the current government.