Lebanon Holds First Parliament Election Since Financial Collapse, Blast

Lebanon Holds First Parliament Election Since Financial Collapse, Blast

Things are very expensive and there is no electricity, no water," said Khodr al-Ashi, 62, voting in Beirut.In southern Lebanon, a political stronghold for the Shi'ite Hezbollah movement, Rana Gharib said she had lost her money in the financial collapse, but was still voting for the group."We vote for an ideology, not for money," said Gharib, a woman in her thirties who was casting her vote in the village of Yater, crediting Hezbollah for driving Israeli forces from southern Lebanon in 2000.Hussein Ismail, 40, also said he had lost money in the meltdown but this would not stop him voting for the Hezbollah-allied Amal Movement, led by longtime Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

The last vote in 2018 saw Hezbollah and its allies - including President Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), a Christian party - win 71 out of parliament's 128 seats.Those results pulled Lebanon deeper into the orbit of Shi'ite Muslim-led Iran, marking a blow to the influence of Sunni Muslim-led Saudi Arabia.Hezbollah has said it expects few changes from the make-up of the current parliament, though its opponents - including the Saudi-aligned Lebanese Forces (LF), another Christian group - say they hope to scoop up seats from the FPM.

r Adding a note of uncertainty, a boycott by Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri has left a vacuum that both Hezbollah allies and opponents are seeking to fill.One former Hariri voter said she voted for billionaire Fouad Makhzoumi, a Sunni lawmaker running in Beirut against lists including one by the Hezbollah-backed Ahbash group.LF voter Diana Safa said she expected results to be disputed.

"It's already tense today," she said.Responding to reports of scuffles near polling centers in parts of the country, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said security incidents were "at an acceptable level."The head of an EU observation mission said they had seen "a calm atmosphere inside and outside the polling stations," and there had been some "minor issues."The LF said Hezbollah supporters had attacked their delegates in three districts - Jezzine, Zahle and Baalbeck-Hermel, leaving at least four people wounded.

A Hezbollah official said the group had no presence in Jezzine.

The official could not immediately be contacted for comment on the other two areas.The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections said one of its monitors was beaten by Hezbollah supporters near Sidon.

The Hezbollah official said he was not aware of the incident.The association, which warned of vote-buying ahead of the contest, said activists of several parties, including Hezbollah, had asked its monitors to leave some polling stations.The next parliament must nominate a prime minister to form a cabinet - a process that can take months.

Original Story on: PeaceFMOnline

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