BEIRUT, Lebanon,AP- Pro-Syrian Shiite political parties swept parliamentary elections along Lebanon”s southern border with Israel, a victory that poses a challenge to the growing opposition to Syria”s longtime influence over Lebanon.
The militant group Hezbollah and its allies have won all 23 seats in south Lebanon, the Interior Minister said.
Hezbollah hopes Sunday”s victory will prove its strength and send a message of defiance to the Washington.
The United States labels Hezbollah a terrorist organization and has called for its disarmament in line with a U.N. Security Council resolution.
Hezbollah has refused, backed by the Lebanese government, which argues that the militants are legitimately resisting Israel”s alleged occupation of a parcel of territory on the border.
Israel”s foreign ministry expressed alarm about Hezbollah”s strong showing in a region bordering northern Israel.
"If Hezbollah was only a political party, we in Israel wouldn”t be as concerned as we are, " said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev. "Hezbollah is obviously not simply a political party, rather it is a heavily armed terrorist organization."
Interior Minister Hassan Sabei said Hezbollah and the allied Shiite party Amal won all 17 contested seats by a wide margin. The ticket had already been declared the winner of six other seats in the south where there were no challengers.
Hezbollah increased its legislators in south Lebanon from four to five. Hezbollah also won a seat in Beirut in the first round of Lebanon”s staggered elections, which began on May 29.
The parliamentary elections which run through June 19, are the first national polls to be conducted since Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April.
Mohammed Fneish, a Hezbollah lawmaker, pollest the highest Sunday with 154,056 votes, surpassing parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, the leader of Amal, by about 1,000 votes.
The vote across the south was so lopsided that the losers, a range of communists and independents, received little more than one-tenth of the vote.
Among the losers was Anwar Yassin, a communist ex-guerrilla who spent 17 years in Israel jail before he was freed in a prisoner swap last year. He received 18,450 votes.