A largely disillusioned Lebanese electorate begins voting this weekend in the country’s parliamentary poll – the first in three decades to be held free of the influence of Syrian troops.
European Union observers will be monitoring events to make sure the election is fair. But many voters say the outcome is already fixed. The son of murdered ex-prime minister, Rafik al-Hariri, is virtually sure of victory. Saad al-Hariri’s Future Bloc has already picked up several seats because no-one has stood against his candidates. A sign of political unity perhaps – but many Lebanese say it is not their idea of democracy. Although officially voting goes on until June the 19, Anti-Syrian Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, who joined forces with Hariri’s bloc, has also won a seat without a ballot being cast. Despite denials from Damascus, many Lebanese remain convinced Syria had a hand in the February 14 car bombing that killed Rafik al-Hariri. That has left voters struggling to understand why the Future Bloc has done deals with a pro-Syrian Shi’ite alliance, but left staunchly anti-Syrian Christian leader, Michel Aoun out in the cold. Mass street protests following the assassination forced Syria to withdraw troops deployed in Lebanon. But analysts say the euphoria shown after the soldiers’ departure has now been widely replaced by cynicism.