People in Lebanon are being urged to turn out in force today for the start of parliamentary elections. The call comes from the man whose bloc of candidates looks certain to win, Saad al-Hariri, the son of the assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
The polling opens in Beirut and then spreads to other regions over the next four weekends. This is the first general election in three decades with no Syrian troops in Lebanon.For the first time as well, foreign observers are monitoring the voting.
35-year-old Saad al-Hariri is competing against a handful of pro-Syrian leftists and Muslim militants in Beirut.
Nine of his candidates, however, have already won their seats because of a lack of challengers.
Anti-Syrian Druze leader Walid Jumblatt remains united with Hariri’s bloc, but Christian leader Michel Aoun, recently returned from exile, is seen as out in the cold.
Commentators say the joy after the withdrawal of Syrian troops has faded, with old-style horse trading curtailing voter choice.