'The Christians should blame no one but themselves. They dropped the ball and Hizbollah picked it up,' said a Western diplomat. Diplomats said the once-politically dominant Christians had thrown away much of their power by boycotting the election in protest at the presence of Syrian troops in Beirut.
'Hizbollah and other (Muslim) groups campaigned well when the Christians gave them an opening by ruling themselves out,' the diplomat added.
Analysts said it was unlikely that a Hizbollah victory would radicalise parliament with demands for an Islamic state and the elimination of Israel, which controls a 'security corridor' in the south. 'But . . . more people have to hear their voice,' one said.
In south Lebanon, in Israel's 'security zone', four prisoners escaped from Khiam prison yesterday, but two who strayed into a minefield were recaptured, security sources said.