Last Sunday’s municipal elections in South Lebanon saw Hezbollah and the Amal Movement win the majority of council seats throughout the region. This was not a surprise. What was, however, were the signals sent out by the electoral dynamics in some Shia towns and cities, where it was demonstrated that the two parties, despite their consensus and hard work in forming what they thought were uncontested lists, were not able to take the polls by storm.

Although Hezbollah still enjoys the political support of the Shia in general, independent candidates, incensed at how the Hezbollah and Amal alliance pooled resources without taking into consideration the sensitivities of local families and other political groups, ran against the coalition. Not only that, they actually won seats, and these wins reflected a growing resentment within the Shia community at Hezbollah’s arrogance. The message was clear: They would no longer give blind support.

In the past, a few independent figures have run against Hezbollah, but they were either affiliated with opposing political camps, or ran individually with no local backing. This time, the opposition to Hezbollah and Amal was part of the social fabric, backed by families and political groups like the leftists and the communists, who had held the banner of resistance for years before Hezbollah was formed in the beginning of the 1980s but who now felt ignored and marginalized. Their strength lay in the fact that they were not politically opposed to Hezbollah and that they were part and parcel of the community.

Hezbollah’s leadership thought that they had tamed the Shia community under the banner of Resistance and the provision of social services. This worked during the parliamentary elections, when Hezbollah was perceived by the Shia as the “opposition,” but it appears to have backfired at the municipal level, where Hezbollah sold itself as the “authority,” one that tried to impose its will with an iron fist.

Shia Islam (Arabic: شيعة‎ Shī’ah, sometimes spelled Shi’a), is the second largest denomination of Islam, after Sunni Islam