The Lebanese are voting in parliamentary elections with the governing coalition awaiting the results nervously as it seeks to fend off a strong challenge from the Hezbollah-led opposition.
While voting is expected to pass off peacefully, the announcement of the results on Monday could spark trouble. Both national and international observers from the European Union are overseeing the vote. “The European Union election observation mission is working with 100 observers and we’re going to cover roughly 20 % of the polling stations around the country. I think it’s really enough in order to get an idea of what is happening. But everything seems so far normal”, said Jose Ignacio Salafranca, chief of the EU team of observers. Three point two million people are eligible to vote, and the Christian community is expected to swing the balance, split as it is between the Shi’ite Hezbollah backed by Syria and Iran, and the Sunni-led coalition. In the event of a Hezbollah victory, it remains unclear whether Saad al-Hariri would join a national coaliton. He is leading the government’s campaign, but has said he might prefer to go into opposition. In his four years in power his colleague Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has often been locked in a power struggle with Hezbollah, unable to govern smoothly with or without them in coalition. Security is heavy for the vote, with 50,000 security forces deployed in the streets.