It is an election that has exposed deeper divisions in an already divided nation. People in a Maronite Christian area of the Lebanese capital Beirut are choosing a successor to Pierre Gemayel, the anti-Syrian politician assassinated last November. His father, former President Amin Gemayel, is standing for the ruling coalition against the pro-Syrian General Michel Aoun’s candidate. He says his rivals could re-open the door to Syrian involvement in Lebanon. Aoun is the main Christian leader in the opposition, which includes Hezbollah, an ally of Syria and Iran. He was a fierce critic of Syrian influence while in exile in France and surprised many by siding with Hezbollah on his return. His candidate, Kamil Khoury, says he wants to rebuild Lebanon for all its people.
Analysts say the outcome will be close. Another by-election taking place in Beirut on Sunday was expected to deliver a safe victory to the main Sunni Muslim group. But the validity of the ballots has been challenged by the pro-Syrian opposition as they were not sanctioned by the president, Emile Lahoud, who is backed by Damascus.