Hezbollah calls Lebanon election gains 'great victory'

A portrait of Lebanon's Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on the side of a road in the mainly Shiite Muslim southern suburbs of Beirut.

Beirut, Lebanon (CNN)A parliamentary bloc led by Saudi-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri has lost more than a third of its seats in Sunday's parliamentary elections, the premier said in a live televised address on Monday.

His main opponent, Hezbollah and its political allies, as well as rival Sunni parties have made gains, according to unofficial results.
If confirmed, the results further solidify Hezbollah's power in Lebanon's national government. After years of fighting in Syria's civil war, the Iranian-backed Shia group group drew on its popular bases across the country to boost its political might.
    Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri casts his vote at a polling station.
    In a televised speech, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said the elections produced a Parliament that could protect the group's "strategic choices," an apparent reference to the party's fighting force.
      "Today I can say that our goals have been achieved," said Nasrallah, calling the results a "great moral and political victory."
      Hariri's Future bloc won 21 seats, a drop from the 31 seats that it held before the election, which made it the country's largest parliamentary bloc.
      The Future bloc still remains the largest among Sunni parties. In Lebanon's power-sharing system, this allows Hariri to remain the top contender for prime minister in the next government.

      Hezbollah's assent

      Hezbollah-backed electoral lists went virtually unchallenged, sweeping the group and its allies to power in nearly every district they contested, according to preliminary results.
      Hariri has come under public criticism by his Saudi political patrons for sharing a government with Hezbollah -- the United States and Gulf countries consider the militant group a terrorist organization.