This article first appeared in Third World Quarterly, Vol 14, No 2, 1993

Lebanon's Hizbullah: from Islamic revolution to parliamentary accommodation


Few of Lebanon's political factions have mastered the art of political manoeuvring as Hizbullah has. While there are still pockets of virulent militancy, notably in the south, developments indicate that Hizbullah, who led a military Jihad (holy struggle) in the 1980s against Israel, the West, and all those who opposed its vision of an Islamic Lebanon, has entered a new phase since 1989; this phase might be called the phase of 'political jihad'. The party accepted the Taif agreement of 1989 and the subsequent efforts to stabilise Lebanon's political life, but has not whole-heartedly embraced the new formula of inter-sectarian accommodation. Increasingly, the early revolutionary Iranian model has been overshadowed by a more participatory one which led to the party's participation in Lebanon's political system. The party has concentrated more on the ballot box than on bullets and military victories.

The most striking example of this change occurred in Lebanon's parliamentary elections which took place between 23 August and 6 September 1992, The first open elections in more than two decades led to stunning victories by Hizbullah (eight seats) and other Muslim groups such as al-Jama'ah al-Islamiyyah, (the Islamic Group, three seats) and Jamiyyat al-Mashari' al-Khayriyyah al-Islamiyyah (the Islamic Society of Philanthropic Projects, one seat). Although 12 seats by no means form the majority in Lebanon's parliament, which is made up of 128 seats, Hizbullah's victory remains remarkable among fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist parties, as it has the highest number of representatives in comparison with other parties. This article sheds some light on Hizbullah's new political face and its changing role in Lebanon's confessional system.

Political shift

The rise of Islamic revivalist movements in general and Hizbullah in particular has been tied to the crises conditions that beset the Middle East in recent times. These crises have included the Arab defeats by Israel, the failure to achieve balanced socioeconomic development, the pervasiveness of political the pervasiveness of political oppression, gross maldistribution of wealth, and the disorienting psychocultural impact of Westernization.1

These crises have shaped the political dynamics of Islamic activism in Lebanon, which received further reinforcement from the victory of the Muslim cause in Iran. Equally important, the formation of Hizbullah was clearly tied to the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in June 1982, and the introduction of the Multi-National Forces (MNF). Further, the dispatch of 1,500 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to the Syrian-controlled Biqa' region in the summer of 1982, under the pretext of fighting Israel, brought Iran into Lebanon.2 It was then that Hizbullah was secretly formed under the sponsorship of Iran. The Syrian-Iranian agreement on stationing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards contributed to consolidating the emergence of Hizbullah, which further enhanced its power in Lebanon. At the same time, Sayyid Husayn al-Musawi protesting the participation of Amal's leader Nabih Berri along with Bashir Gemayel and others in the Salvation Committee--formed by President Ilyas Sarkis in June 1982 to face the repercussions of the Israeli invasion--decided to resign from Amal movement and announced from Ba'albek the birth of his own organisation, Islamic Amal.3 Working secretly under Iranian sponsorship, however, Hizbullah waited until 1984 to declare its own birth publicly through a communiqué, on the second anniversary of Sabra and Shatilla's massacre, promising 'to continue the march for the liberation of Palestine'.4 Both Hizbullah and Islamic Amal have utilised the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as an instrument for recruitment, training and indoctrination. From 1984 onwards, Islamic Amal was to become embodied in 'Ummat' Hizbullah according to al-Musawi.5 Thus, the Israeli invasion of June 1982 provided the key ingredient of crisis that accorded Hizbullah a combat organ, the Islamic Resistance (al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah) for its subsequent military activities.

Up until 1985, Hizbullah, together with Amal and Palestinian guerrillas took part in Lebanese National Resistance operations against Israeli forces and its allies, the South Lebanon Army.6 However, from 1984 to the Israeli withdrawal in 1985, 90% of the attacks were carried out by the Islamic Resistance which Hizbullah created.7 The attacks of the Islamic Resistance boosted the image of Hizbullah as the most prominent actor in compelling Israeli's retreat to their self-proclaimed security zone which it has occupied since 1978. Similarly, the Islamic holy war (al-Jihad al-Islami) the twin sister of the Islamic Resistance which Hizbullah created in 1983, claimed responsibility for the numerous suicide bombings against the US embassy and the US and French military compounds, prompting the withdrawal of the MNF in 1984. Furthermore, it is widely believed that the same organ was behind the kidnapping of Western hostages.8 Thus, since 1985 the Islamic Resistance of Hizbullah has been the sole party to conduct the struggle against Israel. At the same time it considers itself free in regard to any actions of retaliation launched by the Israeli Army against the southern localities.

Through the effectiveness of the Islamic Resistance, Hizbullah was able to gain a mass Shi'ite constituency and so became Amal's main rival for the leadership of the Shi'ite community. While there is no doubt that Hizbullah is the strategic ally of Iran, where compliance to the Iranian leaders comes in play to assume finances by Tehran, Amal is widely viewed as tied to the Asad regime which has utilised it to achieve a range of policy objectives in Lebanon, from 6 February 1984 onwards.9 Nevertheless Hizbullah's more militant, anti-Israeli stance led to bloody conflict between it and Amal from 1985 to 1989.10 Amal has always resisted Hizbullah's moves to establish a foothold in the south. It fears that Hizbullah, under the pretext of holy war against Israel could radicalize the Shi'ite of the south and undermine its strength there. The presence of Israel in the security zone, following its withdrawal in 1985, has continued to provide the basis for military Israeli-Shi'ite daily confrontation that is playing in the hands of Hizbullah and Iran.11 Furthermore, Hizbullah's challenge to Berri's leadership has been complicated further by the Syrian-Iranian alliance which has resulted in legitimating the Islamic resistance in the south. Syria more than Iran regulates its support of Hizbullah according to whether the Middle East peace talks progress or not. In other words, the more Israel insists on demands unacceptable to Syria, the likely the latter will tolerate this or that military operation of Hizbullah against Israeli forces in the south. Thus, the presence of the Islamic Resistance is playing into the hands of Syria as well, and it does not desire the elimination of Hizbullah in the meantime. The Syrian-Iranian 'honeymoon' has benefited Hizbullah in making serious inroads into Amal's support in south Lebanon where Amal is fighting a difficult battle for the heart of the Shi'ite community in Lebanon.

Since its founding in 1984, Hizbullah rejected the very idea of an independent Lebanon, calling instead for the integration of Lebanon in a greater Islamic state. Hizbullah's ideology, as formulated by Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah and other Shaykhs, is derived from the political writings of Ayatollahs Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and Ruhollah Khomeini and the experience of the Iranian revolution.12 In essence Hizbullah subscribes to the theory of the Governance of the Religious Jurist (Wilayat al-Faqih) which was elaborated by Khomeini in his famous tract on Islamic government. Its fundamental assumptions were Shi'i in that it emphasised the passage of authority to the Just Jurisconsult (Wali al-Faqih) in the absence of the Twelfth Imam. The authority of Wali al-Faqih knew no limits and his wisdom derived from God and the family of the Prophet.13 In this context, Fadlallah and the leaders of Hizbullah theoretically were all working to establish an Islamic Republic in Lebanon which they defined as a state ruled by Islamic law.14 But the convergence of several factors since 1989 have triggered a major shift in Hizbullah's political outlook.

The shift in Hizbullah's orientation was tied largely to shifts within Iran's leadership. Iran, creator, financier, and advisor to Hizbullah, had begun charting a more pragmatic course in politics after the death of Khomeini.15 In fact, the struggles for power among Iran's top leaders were mirrored in Hizbullah's leadership, as reflected at its extraordinary conclave of October 1989 in Tehran attended by two hundred delegates. At least two major factions were reported to be at the centre of a major debate on Hizbullah's future in Lebanon.16 The first was led by Shaykh Subhi al-Tufayli, Sayyid Abbas al Musawi (assassinated in February 1992), and Sayyid Husayn al-Musawi. This group held that it was hopeless for Hizbullah to wage jihad against the West when Iran itself was calling for a truce. They advocated rapprochement with other fundamentalist and nonfundamentalist groups and so favoured the insinuation of the movement into the mainstream of Lebanese politics--a position identified with the view of the Iranian president Hashimi Rafsanjani. The second faction, representing a number of party cadres and led by Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah (now the General Secretary) and Sayyid Ibrahim al-Amin pressed for tighter party discipline and sought to keep Hizbullah in a state of perpetual jihad against all those who opposed their vision of an Islamic Lebanon. It was this group that maintained a firm grip over the foreign hostages and worked closely with Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Nasrallah emerged at that time as a party militant blaming his colleagues for making compromises to Amal in the 1989 fighting in south Lebanon.17 The Nasrallah group represented former interior minister Ali Akbar Muhtashimi's militant faction within the Iranian leadership.

The first faction emerged victorious from the Tehran conclave. Shaykh Fadlallah favoured the first group and was reported to be behind what is called the 'Lebanonisation of Hizbullah.'18 As soon as Rafsanjani consolidated his power and called for openness and the relaxation of Iran's relations with others, including the West, Fadlallah urged the party to seek a foothold in the Lebanese political system and to reach out to political leaders outside the fundamentalist camp.19 Fadlallah's influence on Hizbullah entailed a new approach with regard to the Lebanese political system, one based on cooperation rather than the abolishment of the system. Whether few or more members of Hizbullah had been indoctrinated over several Years with the vision of Islamic state, the only option left for party leaders to Lebanon's reality is to be publicly noncommittal. Thus, Fadlallah called constantly for a dialogue with Christians--including the Maronites--on the values shared between Muslims and Christians, and Hizbullah officials called for establishing a nonconfessional system without defining it in explicit terms, thus leaving the characteristics of the system open to debate.20 The theory of the Islamic state would remain within the party rank and file; however, it would not be publicly emphasised as an immediate goal, because it was viewed with suspicion by Sunnis and not acceptable at all to Druzes and Christians. Fully defining a nonconfessional system, on the other hand, meant rejecting the theory of Wilayat al-Faqih, and this could not be done because of its popularity among party members and supporters. Therefore, a noncommittal position would allow them to cooperate with others without being committed or embarrassed. In any case Fadlallah's Lebanonisation of Hizbullah has greatly undermined the position of extremists in the party. Furthermore, the continuing political decline of Muhtashimi and the victory of Rafsanjani's supporters in the 1992 elections to Iran's Shura Council, have corresponded to an almost complete erosion of the power of Hizbullah's militant faction in Lebanon. A key indicator of Rafsanjani's strength and Fadlallah's influence was the election of Sayyid Abbas al-Musawi in July 1991 as a General Secretary of the party. The complete release of Western hostages in 1992 is further evidence of the decline of Hizbullah's militant faction. Even Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, who was elected to the post of General Secretary after the assassination of Abbas al-Musawi in February 1992, did not deviate from the rapprochement policy of his predecessor. Despite his militant background and under the influence of Rafsanjani and Fadlallah, Nasrallah encouraged the party to participate in the Lebanese parliamentary elections, arguing that 'it is important for the party to be represented in the Lebanese parliament in order to contribute to the elimination of political confessionalisin which is one of the party's goals.'21

Indeed, Nasrallah led a majority of party members who supported the decision of the party's Shura Council to participate in the elections. A few, including Shaykh Subhi al-Tufayli, objected to the decision and it was reported that al-Tufayli called on his supporters to bum the voting centres in his village Brital because there was no religious fatwa (edict) to support such electoral participation.22 Nonetheless, Hizbullah nominated a number of candidates, especially in areas where the party was strong, and won eight parliamentary seats. Yet, when Hizbullah took its decision to participate, it was clearly admitting not only the realities of the Lebanese system but also that the road to Islamic state could be a model of participation in elections rather than the revolutionary approach.23 Thus, evolutionary and not revolutionary approach has become the main feature of Hizbullah's new policy.

Visible organisational structure

Until recently, Hizbullah relied on a considerable amount of invisible organisational structure. The only thing known about it was that the party had a Shura Council (consultative) and a number of active committees.24 With Hizbullah's new political shift, a visible organisational structure was required in order to regularise relations with the public. Based on the various activities of the party as revealed in its publications or other newspapers one can sketch a general figure of Hizbullah's organisational structure (see Figure 1).

In contrast to the Movement of the Deprived and Amal, both founded by Imam Musa al-Sadr, Hizbullah is led by a collective leadership rather than by one charismatic personality. Also, Hizbullah's organisational structure in some ways resembles the Leninist type of party structure, as argued by some writers; however, the emphasis on the role of the Ulama in the society is a fundamental feature of Shi'ite Islam and is a central feature of Hizbullah's structure.25

Structurally, the party (Hizb) is headed by a Supreme Shura Council. The council is composed of 17 members. Most of these are clergy such as Sayyid Ibrahim al-Amin, Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah (present General Secretary), Shaykh Naim Kassim, Shaykh Subhi al-Tufayli and Shaykh Abu Salem Yaghi (the place of Sayyid Abbas Al Musawi assassinated in February 1991, has not yet been filled.26 Ayatollah Shaykh Fadlallah, who has been called 'al-Murshid al-Ruhi'--spiritual guide of Hizbullah--is primarily a marji', an eminent religio-legal authority who, according to his account, keeps himself above the organisational framework of the party.27 In addition to the clergy, there are a group of security and para-military leaders. Many of these are Iranian, such as Muhammad Hasan al-Askari and Ahmad Sadiqi. It is mainly the clergy, however, who influence the final decision of the Council. The Supreme Shura Council is the highest authority in the party and is charged with legislative, executive, judicial, political, and military affairs and with the overall administration of the party. Decisions made by the Council are reached either unanimously or by majority vote. In case of deadlock, matters are referred to Wali al-Faqih Ali Akbar Khamenei in Iran who is the supreme Jurisconsult. Thus, no policy is legitimate without clearance from the Supreme Shura Council.

Figure 1: General Structure of Hizbullah
Source: Based on the various activities that were reported by Al-Ahed between 1988 and 1992

The actual operation of the party is entrusted to a General Secretariat headed by a General Secretary and his deputy. These are usually members of the Supreme Shura Council and appointed by it. The General Secretary administers all the affairs of the party, calling for meetings when necessary. Also, the General Secretary is the ex-officio chairman of the Executive Committee which is composed of the various heads of districts (akalim) plus five members named and appointed by the Supreme Shura Council. The districts are: Beirut, the Southern Suburbs, the South, and the Biqa'. Each district has a council called the Regional Shura Council, and it is directly linked to the Supreme Shura Council through one of its members. Its main function is to follow up on the day-to-day activities and needs of the district.

The Politburo is not a decision-making aparatus but rather a supervisory one which coordinates the work of the party's committees. The Politburo, on the other hand, consists of 15 members. The chairman of the Politburo is al-Hajj Husayn al-Khalil (former operational commander of Hizbullah's security branch), and at least six of the Politburo members were elected to the Lebanese parliament. They are: Sayyid Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyid, Ali Hassan Taha, Shaykh Khoder Ali Tlays, al-Hajj Muhammad Finaysh, al-Hajj Muhammad Ra'ad and al-Hajj Muhammad Ahmad Berjawi.28 The Politburo guides the activity of three separate organs.

The first one is the Enforcement Recruitment and Propaganda organ which oversees three sections. For example, a network of preachers in the Mosques has played a vital role in the reinforcement of Hizbullah's doctrines and contributed extensively to the mobilisation of hundreds of young Shi'ites to the cause of Hizbullah. Al-Hawzat al-'ilmiyyah (circles of learning) are as important as the preachers because they represent the basic element in Hizbullah's recruitment process and its slow infiltration policy among the people. The most important of these Hawzat are: the Religious Hawzat of Siddikin in South Lebanon, the Centre for Youth Education in Jibsheet (South Lebanon), the Educational Hawzat in Brital (Biqa'), the Iranian Religious Centre in Tyre, and the Centre for Islamic Martial Arts in Kabrikha (South Lebanon).29 The research and propaganda section runs two radio stations, Sawt al-Iman (Voice of Faith) and Sawt al Nidal (Voice of Struggle), and one television station called al-Manar (the Beacon). In addition, there are two publications: al-Ahed (the party's main mouthpiece), which appears weekly, and the al-Bilad, which appears monthly.

The second organ is Jihad al-Bina' (Holy Reconstruction Organ) which is divided into eight committees. This organ provides support services to members, new recruits, and supporters of Hizbullah. These services range from medical care to financial aid, housing, and public utilities. For example, Hizbullah's Islamic Health Committee, with Iranian financial aid established two hospitals and a number of medical and civil defence centres and pharmacies in the various regions of the Biqa', Beirut (al-Dahiyyah) and South Lebanon (see Table 1).30 In the hospital of Dar al-Hawra' for women and children, over 59,255 women and 10,490 children are examined and treated every year.31 Furthermore, the Financial Aid Committee of Hizbullah, which works closely with Muasassat al-Shaheed (The Martyr's Foundation), and financed directly by Iran, spent over $90m during the four-year period from 1982 to 1986, on the needs of dependents of persons killed or wounded in fighting 'the enemies of Islam'.32 As for the other committees, their services are also significant. The Reconstruction Com mittee repaired and maintained between 1988 and 1991, over 1,000 homes damaged by Israel and other attacks. The Water and Power Resources Committees fixed over one hundred water and power stations from the Biqa' to the South.33 The Environmental Committee has been active in studying and surveying polluted areas, while the Agricultural Committee has established agricultural cooperatives selling insecticides, seeds, and fertilisers to farmers at prices lower than the market price.34 The work of all committees is supervised by a technical and administrative committee which is part of Jihad al Bina' whose purpose mainly is to study and provide help for impoverished regions of Lebanon. These services have had an important impact in a country where the government had long ceased to offer many basic social services. During the severe snow storm of March 1992, for example, the manpower and machinery of the Holy Reconstruction Organ were rushed to rescue and help people in the remote areas of Lebanon's high mountains, whereas the government was promising help without actual delivery.35 Naturally, such services have increased the popularity of the party, at the expense of both the Lebanese state and Amal movement. Berri recognised this reality when he felt obliged to form a coalition electoral list with his increasing-popular Hizbullah rivals for the parliamentary elections.

The third organ is the Security Organ which is divided into three sections. The Party Security section is in charge of protecting party leaders and members. The Central Security section operates a network of surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations inside and outside the country. The Operational Security section carries decisions of the overall Security Organ against Hizbullah's enemies. Reports have spoken of contributions of $70m to $90m from Iran to the Security Organ of Hizbullah.36 However, after the release of all Western hostages and the cut in Iran's financial assistance to Hizbullah estimated as high as 90%,37 the party's leadership has lowered the activity of this organ to the minimum requirements needed for the protection of the party leaders.

The fourth organ is the Combat Organ which is composed of two main sections: the Islamic Resistance (al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah), and the Islamic Holy War (al-Jihad al-Islami). While the first one was in charge of suicidal attacks against Western and Israeli targets, the second one leads more conventional attacks against Israeli troops in the south.38 However, contrary to the other organs, the Combat Organ is under the direct supervision of the Shura Council which is the sole determinor of the kind of operations that should be covered by both sections. Al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah is not an independent combat army; rather it is composed of members who are combatants in times of need, while they return to their normal occupation when not required.39 This makes it difficult for the party's enemies to strike at them for they would have to strike at the whole population in order to do so. Although Hizbullah returned the large Shaykh Abdallah Barreks in the Biqa' valley to the Lebanese army in the summer of 1992, it is still maintaining a significant store of weapons and a number of training camps in the eastern Biqa' which are essential in supporting its resistance activity in the south.40 Faithfulness to Islamic Resistance became the main slogan under which Hizbullah's candidates fought their way to the Lebanese parliament.

Table 1: Institutions of Hizbullah's Islamic Health Committee
Type/NameLocation/area of servicesDate of establishment

  1. Khomeini HospitalBa'albek-Biqa1986
  2. Dar al-Hawra' for women and childrenBeirut-southern suburbs1986
Infirmaries (Mustawsaf)Beirut-Southern Suburbs
  1. al-Imam al-RidaMadi str.1983
  2. al-Imam al-HasanFarhat str.1985
  3. al-Imam al-Husaynal-Karamah str.1985
  4. al-Imam al-SadikBeir Hasan1985
  5. Sayyid al-ShuhadaBurj al-Barajnah1985
  6. al-Imam AliLaylaki str.1986
  7. al-Imam al-KhuiKhaldah Blvd.1986
  8. al-Sayyida Zaynabal-Jinah1987
Infirmaries (Mustawsaf)South Lebanon
  1. al-Imam Hasan Bin AliTayrdabbah1985
  2. al-Imam Husayn Bin AliAyteet1985
  3. al-Imam al-Mahdial-Ghaziyyah1986
  4. al-Imam al-HadiKhurbat Sulum1986
  5. al-Imam al-RidaAyn Buswar1986
  6. Mobile InfirmariesServics 12 villages next to the Israeli security belt zone1986
Infirmaries (Mustawsaf)Biqa
  1. Mustawsaf MashgharaMashghara1985
  2. Mustawsaf SuhmurSuhmur1985
  3. Mustawsaf Ayn al-TinahAyn al-Tinah1986
Dental ClinicsBeirut-Southern Suburbs
  1. al-Ghubairi ClinicAl-Ghubairi Main str.1987
  2. Harat Hurayk ClinicHarat Hurayk Main str.1987
  1. al-Shaheed (the Martyr) 1Beirut-Burj Abu Haydar1985
  2. al-Shaheed 2Southern Suburbs1987
  3. al-Shaheed 3Southern Suburbs1987
Civil Defence Centres
  1. Main HeadquartersSoutehrn Suburbs--Beir al-Abed1985
  2. Branch 1Southern Suburbs--al-Sheyah1986
  3. Branch 2Beirut--Burj Abu Haydar1985
  4. Branch 3South Lebanon--Ayn Buswar1986
  5. Branch 4South Lebanon--Khurbat Sulum1986
  6. Branch 5South Lebanon--al-Ghaziyyah1987
Source: From reports about Hizbullah's Islamic Health Committee published by al-Ahed (Beirut) 1 August 1989, pp12-13.

Table 2: Distribution of numbers and precentages of votes received by Hizbullah's condidates and its allies
Name of candidateElectoral districtRegistered votersVoters turnoutVotes receivedPercentage of votes

1. Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyid (Shi'ite)Ba'albek-Hermil175,37761,38146,06975.1
2. Ali Taha (Shi'ite)Ba'albek-Hermil175,37761,38138,31062.4
3. Muhammad Hasan Yaghi (Shi'ite)Ba'albek-Hermil175,37761,38135,95158.6
4. Khodr Tlays (Shi'ite)Ba'albek-Hermil175,37761,38134,93956.9
5. Ibrahim Bayan (Sunni)Ba'albek-Hermil175,37761,38136,37559.3
6. Munir al-Hujayri (Sunni)Ba'albek-Hermil175,37761,38135,84558.4
7. Rabiha Kayrouz (Maronite)Ba'albek-Hermil175,37761,38133,45754.5
8. Saoud Rufayil (Greek Orthodox)Ba'albek-Hermil175,37761,38138,34262.5
9. Muhammad Finaysh (Shi'ite)The South505,022186,858117,75363.0
10. Muhammad Ra'ad (Shi'ite)The South505,022186,858116,64662.4
11. Muhammad Ahmad Berjawi (Shi'ite)Beirut343,46244,65012,66628.4
12. Ali Fadl Ammar (Shi'ite)Ba'abda118,95114,27413,74096.3
Source: Figures obtained from the Lebanese Ministry of INternal Affairs.

Capturing parliamentary seats

The final results of the Lebanese parliamentary elections showed that Hizbullah had captured eight parliamentary seats, in addition to four seats occupied by nonparty members who were either very loyal to Hizbullah, as in the case of two Sunni representatives, or having some sort of political understanding with the party, as in the case of the two Christian representatives that won in the Ba'albek-Hermil district (see Table 2).41 Hizbullah's victories, of course, have not occurred in a vacuum. Indeed, there were several factors that led to the victory of Hizbullah in the Lebanese legislative elections. Some of these are the following:

First, extensive preparations were made by Hizbullah's leadership two months before the elections--attempting to study the cost-benefit ratio of various alternatives from running independently to entering into coalitions with others. These were very carefully designed and proved successful.42 Thus, the leadership was able to point positions of strength and weakness. Based on such evaluations, Hizbullah decided to form complete lists in some districts, run as independents in others, and enter into coalition lists in yet other districts. For example, in the Biqa', where the party of God is very strong and has an estimated 10,000 members, the party decided on forming an electoral list, called La'iha Mutaharikah (moving list) in the mainly Shi'ite district of Ba'albek-Hermil, against the list of Husayn al-Husayni (former speaker of the Chamber).43 In fact, Hizbullah had suggested in the negotiation with al-Husayni a coalition list, in which it would nominate only two candidates. Al-Husayni, on his part, insisted that Hizbullah nominated only one. It was then that Hizbullah decided to form its own list and to fight al-Husayni.

The purpose of Hizbullah's moving list was to nominate a fixed number of party candidates and leave vacant places for nonparty members. In other words, Hizbullah nominated only four party members out of six candidates allocated to the Shi'ite in the district of Ba'albek-Hermil, thus leaving two seats empty for the purpose of political manoeuvring and compromises with all factions and tribal families which exist in the region. While al-Husayni was able to put together a coalition with three or four tribal families whose leaders such as Ali Jaffar, Rafa'at al-Masri, Yahia Shamas and Assem Ra'ad, became candidates on his list. Hizbullah, with the two vacant seats, was able to enter into side agreements with factions, independent and tribal family candidates.44 The candidate of a tribal family, for example, would pledge to cast all votes he has to Hizbullah's candidates in exchange for the latter votes. Indeed, the party members were committed to cast their vote to Hizbullah's candidates first and then to others in the coalition list. Thus, under a 'give and take policy' Hizbullah was able to work out deals and agreements that made al-Husayni as well as other major tribal leaders such as Majed Hamadeh (formed his own list), look amateurs in front of Hizbullah's sophisticated religiously justified tactic. Had Hizbullah, however, filled the two Shi'ite vacant seats on the electoral list by party candidates, al-Husayni and Yahia Shamas could not have won the election. On the contrary, some speculations made it clear that Hizbullah left room for al-Husayni to win so he was not humiliated completely. When al-Husayni and Albert Mansour (nominated for the Catholic seat on al-Husayni's list) called for the cancellation of election results due to forgery committed by Hizbullah delegates at the ballot centres, Hizbullah security forces immediately seized all centres threatening to use arms against anyone who would call for cancellation. Finally, the case was resolved by Sami al-Khatib (former interior minister backed by Syria) declaring that the results of Ba'albek-Hermil elections were accurate and legitimate. Neither Syria nor the Lebanese government was able to salvage al-Husayni's list with exception to him and Shamas. Ironically, Amal's candidate Ghazi Zeater on al-Husayni's list was also defeated. Hizbullah's list won between 54.5 and 71.5% of the votes in that district. Nevertheless, the voter turnout of the district was low and did not exceed 35% (see Table 2).

Hizbullah's candidates in the other districts of Biqa' (Zahle and western Biqa'-Rachaya) failed the elections. In each district there was one seat allocated to Shi'ite only. More importantly, in both districts the majority of the voters were either Christians, as in the case of Zahle, or Sunni and Druze as in the case of Rachaya district. Furthermore, Mohsen Dalloul (Shi'ite, now Minister of Defence) backed by Syria enjoyed more support than Hizbullah's candidate (Ahmad al-Mazbouh), among Zahle's Christians.45 As for the Shi'ite seat in the western Biqa', it was won by Amal's candidate (Mahmoud Abou Hamdan, now Minister of Housing) who was nominated on Sami al-Khatib's list, where as Hizbullah's candidate there ran independently.

In Mount Lebanon (district of Ba'abda), of which al-Dahiyyah (the southern suburbs of Beirut) is a part and in which the majority of the population are Christian Maronites who boycotted the legislative elections, the voter turnout was the lowest among all districts (12%). Hizbullah's candidate Ali Fadl Ammar had a great advantage and won the elections by 96.3% of the votes of that district. Despite its strength in al-Dahiyyah, the Party of God nominated one out of two candidates allocated to Shi'ites. Again under a 'give and take policy', it left one place vacant especially that one of the independent Shi'ite candidates, Basim al-Saba' (who won) came from a family with strong connections including Hizbullah. Furthermore, since the district of Ba'abda has also a number of Druze, most of whom are members of the Progressive Socialist Party which nominated Ayman Shukayr for the Druze seat, Hizbullah entered in a coalition with the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Junbalat. Actually, the coalition was an expression of their mutual interest to guarantee the success of their candidates.46 In Beirut, where the voter turnout was very low (13%), Hizbullah's candidate Muhammad Ahmad Berjawi won the elections by 28.4% of the votes of that district. Again, Hizbullah left a vacant seat for negotiation with other leaders and parties including the list of Dr Salim al-Hoss (ex-prime minister) who nominated also one Shi'ite (Muhammad Yusuf Baydoun), thus leaving one place for negotiation. Furthermore, Hizbullah entered into undeclared coalition with the Islamic Group and the Islamic Society of Philanthropic Projects who won one seat each in the district of Beirut.47 However, in the south, where Hizbullah has a large number of party members but not to the extent of Amal, and under Iranian and Syrian pressure, Hizbullah entered in a coalition list that was formed by Nabih Berri, nominating two candidates only and avoiding a direct confrontation with Amal, especially that the bloody fighting of 1989 had not yet been forgotten, at least by some members of both factions. In the south, however, the voter turnout was the highest (37%) among the districts, and Hizbullah's candidates, Mohammad Finaysh and Mohammad Ra'ad received 63% of the number of votes received by Nabih Berri.48

Second, the social services which Hizbullah had been providing through its network of committees had great impact on many people. During the elections, many felt that the Party of God had provided valuable services to the impoverished regions at a time when the unemployment rate was high and public utilities were neglected by the government.49 This, in addition to the monthly distribution of food rations to thousands of families.50 Thus, it was not surprising to find many people, specially in the Muslim community, rewarding Hizbullah by voting for its candidates.

Third, the large number of party members, distributed across three geographic areas-the Biqa', al-Dahiyyah and the south-definitely helped. While the exact number of members is not clear, the activities of the party in election campaigns have shown that at least 10,000 members exist in the Biqa' alone.51 The party base is wider than what one might think, and according to various reports by al-Ahed on Hizbullah rallies, the number of party members may reach up to 20,000, where two-thirds of them are eligible voters and the rest are active among the people.

Fourth, the party's electoral machine itself rendered impressive results during the elections. One month before the elections, Hizbullah formed an electoral machine with headquarters under the direct supervision of the party leadership. It was even reported that a number of Iranian secret intelligence specialists supervised the election operations from the main headquarters starting with the Biqa', moving to Beirut and Ba'abda, and ending up in the south.52 The electoral machine was composed of 600 party members trained in various techniques of campaigning, and thousands of party workers, male and female, who were transported according to the elections calendar from one region to the other. The machine worked day and night contacting people and transporting them to voting centres, particularly the ones which were located in remote areas. They even paid the people's travel and lodging expenses.53

Also, the Security Organ of Hizbullah was active in the work of the electoral machine. Despite the presence of Lebanese police and some units of the army at assigned voting centres, Hizbullah security operatives monitored every move inside and outside those centres. It was reported that Hizbullah's security men interfered many times making sure that voters were holding the right ballot card and voting for the party's candidates.54 Furthermore, the same reports said that the Security Organ bribed employees in government departments in various electoral districts offering thousands of dollars to release hundreds of identification cards of dead people which were used for voting by Hizbullah's members.55 Whether these reports are true or not, the fact remains that no Lebanese political party or traditional leader, even the most experienced among them in the business of campaigning, has ever created as effective an electoral machine as that of Hizbullah.

Fifth, a religious fatwa (edict) was issued by the Shura Council and distributed to all members and supporters calling on them to vote for Hizbullah's candidates. The fatwa says:56

Every man will be asked about his vote on judgement day--any adherent to the supreme Islamic interest should hold the list high and drop it as is in the voting box--and it is illicit to elect anybody else who is not on the list.
Accordingly, the Propaganda Organ, especially Mosque preachers, gave fiery speeches mobilising people to vote for the 'Candidates of Islam' or 'Candidates of the Islamic Resistance'.

Sixth, the low percentage of voter turnout in all electoral districts (see Table 2), was due to the boycotting of elections by many Lebanese, The Lebanese Christians specially in Mount Lebanon, Beirut and the Israeli-designated 'security zone', mainly boycotted the parliamentary elections demanding that legislative elections be held after the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.57 Overall, the boycotting of elections had left Hizbullah's candidates and its allies with a distinct edge. Hizbullah would have lost that edge if many people had voted. It could still win, but not in Beirut and Ba'abda and with fewer seats in Ba'albek-Hermil, and the south districts.58

With Hizbullah now present in the Lebanese parliament, some regional analysts, relying on unnamed Western sources, suggested that the presence of Hizbullah in particular, and fundamentalist groups in general, is a progressive step towards absorbing fundamentalism by the system. Moreover, the democratic game would limit their danger because they would become one of the many players. Thus, in the case of opposition by the fundamentalists to important political issues such as the Arab-Israeli peace settlement, their opposition has to be within and not outside the system.59 That opposition would not be as effective as if they were kept outside the system. While there is some truth to the above suggestions, the fact remains that there are many difficulties and challenges awaiting the new elected parliament as it strives to make a new start under the confessional equity formula established by the Taif accord. One major difficulty is the insistence of Hizbullah on the elimination of political confessionalism. Clearly, Hizbullah could neither address nor work for the establishment of an Islamic order at the present time, but it would not easily compromise its demands. According to one of Hizbullah's elected representatives, 'political Maronitism which is the foundation of political confessionalism must be shut down'.60 Moreover, he added that 'we will work hard to eliminate political confessionalism and it must be eliminated in the parliament's first session by God's will'.61

The Taif agreement did establish that political confessionalism is to be abolished in government positions including the first three presidencies after the election of the new parliament. However, Hizbullah's immediate demand or project is not a welcome subject to the Christians, specially the Maronites, for it threatens the balance of Lebanon's political system among the various sectarian communities.62 Indeed, Hizbullah hopes that the elimination of political confessionalism opens the way for a Muslim to be president of the Lebanese republic, so that it has the opportunity to seize the political system not only through the parliament but also through the office of the president.

More problematic is Hizbullah's second objective which is by itself another major difficulty. That is the insistence on 'legitimizing the Islamic Resistance officially by the Lebanese parliament.'63 This means the legal recognition of Hizbullah's military presence in South Lebanon. Indeed, the Christians would resist such demands specially as it represents the antithesis of a previous decision made by the Lebanese government, ie, disarming all militias. In addition to these two difficulties, there are others of an administrative, social, and educational nature which Hizbullah has pursued in the Lebanese parliament.

As the appointed prime minister Rafic al-Hariri took office in mid-October 1992, he found support from the majority of Lebanese parties. It was only Hizbullah that proclaimed its opposition to the nomination, having proposed the name of Ibrahim Bayan (a Sunni from Ba'albek loyal to Hizbullah) to fill the post of prime minister. Furthermore, during the vote of confidence on the new government of al- Hariri, Hizbullah's deputies voted against the government's political programme, arguing that it neglected the two most important issues: the official recognition of the Islamic Resistance and a time table for the elimination of political confessionalism.64 More importantly, Hizbullah and its deputies stood in sharp contrast to al-Hariri's project of Real Estate Corporation (al-Sharikah al-lkariyyah) which would be responsible for the reconstruction of downtown Beirut and its suburbs. Hizbullah has claimed that the intention of this corporation, which is financed by al-Hariri's own money and other foreign investors, is to turn people from their own houses and create resort areas and gambling casinos for the purpose of accumulation of personal profits rather than providing decent housing to the impoverished people.65 Protesting against the project has continued even after a delegation of Hizbullah met with al-Hariri to clear the issue further.66

With its discontent following the election and the formation of the new government, Hizbullah's military operations were multiplied against Israeli occupation in the south. It became a humiliation for all the Lebanese parties, including the prime minister al-Hariri who is faced with divergence of interests with Hizbullah. Although al-Hariri and majority of the Lebanese parliament would like to see the end of Israeli occupation, they do not share with Hizbullah its views on the liberation of the south.

Despite the fact that none of Hizbullah's proposals has been adopted explicitly in the Lebanese parliament, its deputies will continue its fight 'using sticks and carrots' at least to ensure state expenditure is more evenly distributed to cover the long neglected Shi'ite areas in the Beqa', the south and Beirut's southern suburbs.


The foregoing study of Hizbullah's political profile which culminated in a parliamentary victory points clearly to Iran's leadership influence which has aimed since 1989 to give legitimacy to Hizbullah by guiding it to working within and not outside the system. Furthermore, Hizbullah's welfare system to improve the daily life of thousands of deprived Shi'ite in Lebanon has increased the popularity of Hizbullah. At the same time it has posed a significant challenge to Amal's leadership of the Shi'ite community, and most specifically, to Nabih Berri. It still remains a debatable point exactly for how long Syria will tolerate the Islamic Resistance operations at a time when the Arabs are engaged in important negotiations with Israel. In the meantime neither Iran nor Syria is willing to halt the operations of the Islamic Resistance.

Hizbullah has proved to be a dynamic and energetic force within less than 10 years. From the Biqa' to Beirut, to the south, Hizbullah became an increasingly important and legitimate political force. Whether Hizbullah will be absorbed by the Lebanese consociational democracy or whether the system will fall under the control of Hizbullah, remains a rhetorical question until the process of the elimination of political confessionalism come increasingly into the light.


1 On these crisis conditions see Hrair R Dekmejian, Islam In Revolution, Syracuse University Press, 1985, pp 25-32. Back
2 Al-Nahar, 23 May 1986, p 1. Back
3 On the creation of both Hizbullah and Islamic Amal, see Al-Hayat, 2 February 1990, p 8. Back
4 Ibid. Back
5 See interview with Sayyid Husayn al-Musawi, in Al-Anba, 18 February 1984, pp 8-9. Back
6 Mahmud A Faksh, 'The Shi'a community of Lebanon: a new assertive political force', Journal of South Asia and Middle Eastern Studies, XIV (3), Spring 199 1, p 5 1. Back
7 See interview with Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah in Al-Nahar-al-Arabi Wal Duwali, 18 March 1985, p 21. Back
8 See Henry W Degenhardt (ed), Revolutionary and Dissident Movements, UK: Longman House, 1988, p 214; see also New York Times, 19 March 1990, p 2. Back
9 Ibid, Mahmud A Faksh, 'The Shi'a community of Lebanon'. p 49. Back
10 Ibid, Henry W Degenhardt, Revolutionary and Dissident Movements, p 217. Back
11 See Mount Amel between Israel and Iran in Al-Shira, 7 December 1992, p 19-20. Back
12 Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Lamhah Fiqhiyyah Tamhidiyyah ala Mashru dustur al Jumhuriyyat al-Islamiyyah Fi Iran (A preliminary juridical glance at the draft of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran), Qum, 1979, pp 18-35. Back
13 For a full treatment of Wilayat al-Faqih see Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah in Al-Ahed, 27 April 1987, p 4. Back
14 Chibli Mallat, Shi'i Thought From the South of Lebanon, Oxford, GB: Centre for Lebanese Studies, 1988, p 37. Back
15 Augustus Richard Norton 'Lebanon after Taif: is the civil war over?' The Middle East Journal, 45(3), Summer 1991, pp 471-472. Back
16 Al-Hayat, 27 October 1989, p 6. Back
17 For further details see Martin Kramer 'An uneasy truce in Islam,' Middle East Contemporary Survey, (12), 1988, pp 193-194. Back
18 Mohammad Shukayr 'al-Louba al-Siyassiyyah Li-qiadat Hizbullah Fi Libnan' (The political game of Hizbullah's leadership in Lebanon) in Al-Wasat, 2 March 1992, pp 10-13. Back
19 Ibid, see also Kramer, 'An uneasy truce in Islam', p 193. Back
20 See Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah's Friday Speech in Al-Ahed, 10 April 1992, p 4; see also interview with Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah in Al-Shira, 13 July 1992, p 23. Back
21 Ibid, Nasrallah, Al-Shira p 23. Back
22 Al-Shira, 2 August 1992, pp 12-13. Back
23 Al-Shira, 13 July 1992, p 23; see also interview with Hizbullah's elected representative Sayyid Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyid in Al-Hayat, 25 August 1992, pp 3. Back
24 See Marius Deeb, Militant Islamic Movements In Lebanon: Origins, Social Basis and Ideology, Washington DC: Center for Contemporary Arabic Studies, 1986, pp 7-8; see also As'ad Abu Khalil, Hizbullah in Lebanon: 'Islamisation of Leninist organisational principles', Middle Eastern Studies, (27) July 1991, pp 396-397. Both writers did not give specific details about Hizbullah's organisational structure with the exception of the decisionmaking process in the Shura Council. Back
25 Ibid, As'ad Abu-Khalil 'Islamisation of Leninist organisational principles'. p 397. Back
26 The names of the leadership of the Shura Council were compiled from various activities of Hizbullah that were reported between 1991 and 1992 in Al-Ahed as well as from anonymous party members. Back
27 Interview with Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah in Al-Hayat, 2 February 1990, p 8. Back
28 Names of Hizbullah Politburo were compiled from the various activities of the party that were reported between 1991 and 1992 in Al-Ahed. Back
29 See report on Hizbullah in Al-Nahar al-Arabi Wal Duwali, 19 September 1989, p 12. Back
30 See special report on the Islamic Health Committee in Al-Ahed, I August 1989, pp 12-13. Back
31 Ibid. Back
32 See Martin Kramer 'Islam's enduring feud', Middle East Contemporary Survey, 11, 1987, pp 167-168. Back
33 See special report on Hizbullah's committees of Reconstruction, Water and Power Resources, Agriculture and Environmental in Al-Ahed, 7 February 1988, pp 12-14. Back
34 Ibid, p 12. Back
35 Al-Shira, 31 August 1992, p 28. Back
36 Al-Nahar al-Arabi Wal Duwali, 18 September 1989, p 17; also for similar figures see Kramer Islam's enduring feud', p 168. Back
37 See Robin Wright 'Islam's new political face', Current History 90 (552), January 1991, p 28. Back
38 See Al-Masira, 10 February 1992, pp 12-13. Back
39 Al-Ahed, 14 August 1992, p 18; see also Al-Safir, 26 August 1992, p 5. Back
40 Al-Nahar, 31 July 1992, p 8. Back
41 For various results of Lebanese parliamentary elections see Al-Safir, 9 September 1992, p 3. Back
42 See interview with Nasrallah in Al-Shira, 13 July 1992, p 23; also see Al-Safir, 31 August p 2. Back
43 Al-Shira, 24 August 1992, pp 20-21. Back
44 Ibid. Back
45 Al-Masira, 28 September 1992, p 11. Back
46 See Al-Safir, 7 September 1992, p 20. Back
47 Ibid, see also Al-Safir, 7 September 1992, p 20. Back
48 Al-Safir, 5 September 1992, p 11. Back
49 Al-Shira, 31 August 1992, p 29. Back
50 Ibid. Back
51 Ibid. Back
52 Al-Shira, 7 September 1992, p 17. Back
53 Al-Hayat, 25 August 1992, pp 1, 4; also see Al-Shira 31 August 1992, p 29. Back
54 Al-Shira, 7 September 1992, pp 20-21. Back
55 Ibid. Back
56 See Al-Ahed, 14 August 1992, p 2. Back
57 Al-Diyyar, 21 August 1992, p 2. Back
58 Al-Safir, 9 September 1992, p 3. Back
59 Al-Safir, 3 September 1992, p 5. Back
60 Interview with Muhammad Ahmed Berjawi (Hizbullah's, elected representative), in Al-Safir, 3 September 1992, p 3. Back
61 Ibid. Back
62 For fuller treatment of the position taken by the Christian opposition see Al-Diyar, 21 August and 22 1992, p 2, 3. Back
63 Ibid. See also Nasrallah's speech about political confessionalism and the Islamic Resistance during a celebration in the southern suburbs of Beirut in support of Hizbullah's candidates in the south, in Al- Ahed, I I September 1992, p 2. Back
64 Al-Safir, 17 October 1992, p 4. Back
65 Al-Safir, 15 October 1992, p 3. Back
66Al-Safir, 22 October 1992, p 3. Back

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