Monday, August 6, 2007

Christians win opposition seat in Beirut in by-elections

Lebanon had by-election voting yesterday. Partly due to "two assassinated [Pierre Gemayel and Eido] anti-Syrian lawmakers in the latest showdown between the government and its opponents." The Christian candidate, Michel Aoun, won, but the official count has not been announced as of yet. Read the whole story at Bahrain Tribune. If that link does not work, try this one. Have a blessed day.

I'm going to bring the article over here for you. (I'm checking my links, and you lucked out.)

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BEIRUT (Reuters) Test of strength weeks before electing new president.

A Maronite Christian opposition candidate won a by-election to Lebanon’s parliament yesterday, an opposition leader said, dealing a blow to the country’s Western-backed ruling coalition.
Tens of thousands of Lebanese voted to choose successors to two assassinated anti-Syrian lawmakers in the latest showdown between the government and its opponents.

Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun said his candidate closely beat Amin Gemayel, a former president and a key member of the ruling coalition, in a by-election in the Metn district northeast of Beirut.

The race to win the Maronite seat left empty after Pierre Gemayel was killed in November had shaped up as a test of strength between the ruling coalition and the opposition weeks before parliament was due to elect a Maronite as president.

There was no official confirmation of Aoun’s announcement but opposition sources said Camille Khoury had won by a margin of some 500 votes from around 75,000 cast.

Earlier, unofficial results showed pro-government candidate Mohammad Amin Itani winning by a large margin the Sunni Muslim seat in a Beirut district vacated by the killing of MP Walid Eido in June.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora hailed the peaceful by-elections as a civilised response to political assassination.

“Democracy in Lebanon will defeat terrorism,” he said in a statement.

A nine-month-old political struggle has caused the worst civil strife since the 1975-1990 war, and some feared a new outbreak of violence during voting.

But no major incidents were reported at polling stations in the Christian heartland, where turnout was reported to be at around 45 per cent.

Thousands of Lebanese troops and police tightened security in the area, where flags and posters of the rival parties adorned balconies, electricity poles and cars.

Both Aoun and Gemayel, Pierre’s father and leader of the Phalange Party, had savaged each other during campaigning and both camps exchanged charges of forgery and vote-buying on election day.

Gemayel is a key player in the anti-Syrian majority coalition, which is supported by the United States, France and Saudi Arabia. Aoun is the main Christian leader in the opposition, which includes Hizbollah.

An independent monitoring body, Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections, said the polls were generally democratic but reported some violations.

The by-election for a Sunni seat in a Beirut district to chose a successor to Eido, who was assassinated in a car bomb attack in June, was a low-key affair. The winner, Itani, is a member of the main Sunni Future group of Saad Hariri.

The opposition had not launched a full-hearted challenge in Beirut due to the support Hariri enjoyed in that district. Turnout was around 20 per cent.

“This battle is to complete (Lebanon’s) sovereignty, confirm Cedar Revolution and accomplish the goals of the independence uprising,” Gemayel said, in reference to street protests that forced Syria to end its 29-year military presence back in 2005.

“Our main goal is participation (in government). We extend our arm to all the Lebanese to rebuild Lebanon and to salvage it from this big crisis,” Khoury said after voting.

Source: Bahrain Tribune and Love America First-2.

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