THE Hezbollah group and its allies have scored significant gains in parliamentary elections in Lebanon while the Western-backed PM Saad Hariri’s Future Movement sustained losses.

The preliminary results, expected to match the official count, show that Hariri, a Sunni politician with close ties to Saudi Arabia, has so far lost five seats in Beirut, once considered his party’s stronghold.

This indicates Sunni voters are losing faith in his party amid a stagnant economy and concerns over the civil war in neighbouring Syria, which has brought a million refugees to Lebanon.

Hariri would still have the largest Sunni block in parliament, facilitating his return as prime minister to form the next government despite the losses.

The next government, like the outgoing one, is likely to be a unity government that incorporates Hariri’s opponents from the Iran-backed Hezbollah group.

The main race was between a Western and Saudi-backed coalition headed by Hariri and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah, part of a region-wide power struggle that is tearing apart the Middle East.

Hezbollah and its allies appear set to take at least 47 seats in the 128-seat parliament, which would enable them to veto any laws the Shiite militant group opposes.

The election saw a lower turnout than in 2009, falling from 54% to 49%, reflecting voter frustration on issues such as endemic corruption.