Several new political groups have emerged from the opposition movement and are competing in Sunday’s race, coming face to face with establishment parties.
Political observers consider this election highly competitive and unpredictable. Earlier this year, three-time Prime Minister Chad Hariri – the leader of the country’s largest Sunni Muslim parliamentary group – retired from politics and grabbed Sunni votes.
Hariri urged people in his constituencies to boycott the race. But in Beirut’s second constituency – one of Hariri’s strongholds – a relatively large number of voters turned out, with many saying they had voted for CNN to “change”.
Long queues were seen Sunday morning at one of the polling stations near Tareek el Jdeedeh in Beirut.
Referring to the long queues at bakeries and petrol pumps during some difficult days of last year’s economic crisis, Khalid Jadhari said: “The queues we stand in are queues of expectation of shame. “This line is the line of pride.”
Ralph Debas, a New York-based adviser on Reform voters, told CNN, “I felt it was my civic duty to come and vote for Lebanon.” The 43-year-old added: ‘We need a wave of change. We need a wave of decent and responsible people in Parliament.
Hezbollah, an armed political group backed by Iran, has also been the subject of much debate in the Lebanese elections. Many political groups have vowed to try to disarm the Shiite party – which they say dominates the political arena – and still enjoy broad support among its members.
Hezbollah’s campaign rallies – group leader Hassan Nasrallah has urged people to vote en masse – have drawn thousands of supporters this week.
The pro-Hezbollah coalition – which includes other Shiite and Christian allies – holds the majority in the current parliament.
The tiny Eastern Mediterranean country has had a sectarian power-sharing system since its inception a century ago. The parliament is split equally between Muslims and Christians, with the prime minister serving as a Sunni Muslim, the Maronite Christian presidency and its Shia Muslim parliamentary speaker.
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