The release of the 4 Generals yesterday will inevitably have far-reaching political impact on the upcoming and much-anticipated elections on June 7th.  The four were held in connection with the 2005 assassination of Lebanese ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and have been detained in custody without trial since their arrest.

June 7th will see pro-Western faction Future Movement, within March 14, led by Hariri’s son Saad pitted against majority Shiite Muslim group Hizbullah. And while Saad Hariri’s party feels their legislative majority slip from their grasp, their opponents are gaining popularity with their support for the cause of the 4 Generals. Hizbullah leader Nasrallah has long-campaigned for the fair trial of the suspects who have been detained for almost four years without a hearing.

Hizbullah are claiming the Special Tribunal’s decision yesterday as a personal victory, proclaiming it as”the last nail in the coffin” of the US-backed democracy movement. General Sayyed, one of the 4 Generals released specifically thanked Nasrallah in a speech outside the court in south Beirut for all his support in aiding their release.  

Hilal Khashan, head of the department of political studies and public administration at the American University of Beirut said:”The results of the elections will change,” Khashan said. “The Hizbullah-led opposition will have a majority in the Parliament. What happened today was dramatic.”

National Bloc leader Carlos Eddé, of the March 14 alliance said in an interview that March 8, particularly Hizbullah will exploit the release of the 4 Generals in the  parliamentary elections in 37 days. He was quick to defend comments from March 8 coalition that they were unhappy with the judge’s decision and made it clear he respected the Special Tribunal’s decision, regardless of the outcome.

Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani is calling for all parties not to exploit the recent ruling in Beirut for political purposes. It remains to be seen just how influential the Generals’ release will be in helping the opposition party to secure enough support for a majority come June.

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