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Lebanese vote in first election in nine years

07 May, 2018, 10:01 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Lebanon to elect its first new parliament since 2009

Lebanese voters cast ballots Sunday in the country's first election in nearly a decade, hoping for change but expecting little. Results for more than 500 candidates running in 128 seats in the Lebanese National Assembly are expected to be delivered on Monday at the earliest.

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

Lebanon's parliamentary elections were delayed three times since 2009 due to the crisis in neighboring Syria as well as disagreement over the country's new electoral law. "Order is good", he quipped.

Calling for heavy voter turnout, Nasrallah said that "you should protect with your votes your victories and achievements, for which you've paid a very high price", an apparent nod to Hezbollah supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad's fight against jihadists in Syria.

Voters cast two ballots this time around - one for one of 77 nationwide lists of candidates, and one for one of 583 single preferred candidates - in a system that seems to be a combination of that used by the State of Israel and that used by the United States.

Safety was tight at polling stations with just a few studies of skirmishes between supporters of some candidates, notably within the Beirut II district of the capital and within the japanese Lebaneses metropolis of Zahle within the Bekaa Valley.

In Hezbollah strongholds in southern Beirut, there was a steady flow of voters.

Hezbollah was poised to seal its dominance of Lebanon Monday with results for the decade's first general election expected to confirm the Iran-backed terrorist group as the main victor. They wore yellow shirts with the slogan "We defend and construct" written on them.

But in recent years, Riyadh has cut support for Hariri, backing that helped Future in 2009 as part of the March 14 coalition, which focused on making Hezbollah give up its arms.

"We love the resistance", stated Amira Sidani, an 85-year-old lady, after casting her poll. Prior to now, the successful checklist took all of the seats within the electoral district.

As the agency specified, the queues have been so long that some people have urged for voting hours to be extended.

Mohammed Ali, 30, riding his scooter to the beach, said he's not voting because there are no choices. He says his family members will vote for whoever pays them, but he's not interested in the money.

The legislature's term was supposed to expire in 2013, but lawmakers approved several extensions since then, citing security concerns linked to the spillover from Syria's war.

Polling stations closed after 12 hours of voting that were marred only by minor incidents and were marked by what provisional estimates suggested was a low turnout.

Hezbollah and its allies are likely to add more seats, while Hariri is likely to lose several.

Lebanon has periodically been an arena for the intense regional competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

"No one should underestimate the importance of their vote or think that heading down to the ballot box is too much to ask", said Ahmad Hariri, the secretary-general of the premier's Future Movement. The rival sides are anticipated to recreate the unity authorities that at the moment exists, which incorporates Hezbollah.

The vote comes a week after Lebanese living oversees voted in 39 countries around the world.

Hezbollah, which has risen to become a key political player in Lebanon, hoped that the vote would return its parliamentary alliance's first majority, and with it, the power to veto decisions on security and foreign policy that it did not agree with. Analysts said the low number was an indication of voter frustration, as well as confusion over the new electoral system.


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