June 7, 2009


Lebanon queues up to vote (The National, June 07. 2009)

A 100-year-old woman was carried up a long flight of steps today to join the queue at a polling station in Lebanon, where voters have flown in from as far away as Brazil to ensure they have say in the future of the divided nation.

But most people just ensured they woke up early to vote in a fiercely contested general election that could see an alliance led by the Shiite Hizbollah defeat the current ruling Western-backed coalition.

“I came to vote to do away with the current leaders,” said Christelle, a 21-year-old university student voting in Bikfaya, a Christian town in the mountains north-east of Beirut. “The new parliament should strive to help Lebanon evolve and end foreign intervention in our country.” [...]

Polls opened at 6am but many rose at dawn, aiming to be first in line to cast their ballot for their choice of candidate in the 128-seat parliament which is equally divided between Christians and Muslims.

By midday thousands of people were queuing outside the 5,200 polling stations in 26 districts, overwhelming the authorities who said they had not expect such an early turnout.

From early morning convoys of buses and cars poured into the port of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city where outside one station around 300 women were seen waiting to vote.

Mr Aoun, who voted in the southern suburbs, complained of overcrowding and a failure to ensure smooth voting. “The authorities did not take the proper measures. It is overcrowded, but I urge voters to be patient because this is their day,” he said.

The vote is taking place for the first time in one day rather than over a month, and the authorities appeared overwhelmed by the turnout.

“We expected big crowds but not this early in the day,” a senior security official said three hours after polling began.

The interior minister Ziad Baroud urged patience. “I don’t understand how they are willing to line up for hours to get a visa at a foreign embassy and can’t wait in line to vote,” he said.

Lebanon Votes in Closely-Watched Election (AP, 07/06/2009)
A steady stream of vehicles headed south, north or east from Beirut to outlying parts of the country early Sunday, a weekend here, carrying voters to hometowns. Some vehicles had flags of political groups fluttering to show loyalty.

Voters lined up outside polling stations in government buildings and public schools across the country after polls opened. There are some 3.2 million eligible voters out of a population of 4 million. Early unofficial returns were expected late Sunday and official results as early as Monday afternoon.

Army troops in armored carriers and in trucks took up positions on major highways to ensure peaceful voting. Authorities have deployed some 50,000 soldiers and police.

President Michel Suleiman was among the early voters, casting his ballot in his hometown of Amchit on the coast north of Beirut.

"Democracy is a blessing that distinguishes Lebanon in the Middle East, and we must preserve it," he told reporters.

...is that the turnout will put paid to the notion that the Shi'a are a minoroity or even just a plurality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 7, 2009 7:09 AM
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