Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah group said on Sunday it saw no reason to delay May's parliamentary elections, days after the country's political scene was turned on its head by Saad al-Hariri's withdrawal from public life.
Hariri, Lebanon's leading Sunni Muslim politician and three times a former prime minister, declared on Monday he would boycott the vote, adding to the uncertainties facing a country grappling with a devastating financial crisis
In response to Harir's withdrawal, Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy leader of the heavily armed Hezbollah, is expected to announce that "all indications are that the parliamentary elections will take place on time," according to a copy of his speech seen by Reuters.
Qassem has previously stated that the terrorist organization does not expect the election to yield a result much different from 2018, dismissing what he described as expectations of parliament being turned "upside-down".
"The results of the election will be close to the make-up of the current parliament, with slight changes that do not affect the general make-up."
"Therefore we say to those who have high hopes: 'put your feet on the ground'," the Hezbollah bigwig said.
Maronite Christian patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, a Hezbollah critic, said on Sunday Hariri's move must not be used as an excuse to call for a delay.
Hezbollah's adversaries hope to overturn the majority won by the group and its allies, including President Michel Aoun's Christian Free Patriotic Movement, in 2018.
Since then, the financial crisis has plunged the bulk of Lebanese into poverty. The meltdown came to a head in late 2019, when economic grievances ignited protests against the ruling elite over decades of corruption and mismanagement.
While none of Lebanon's main parties have called for an election delay - Aoun said on Saturday he saw no reason for one - many observers believe this may well suit a number of influential players if they feel they stand to lose out.