Anti-Syrian sentiment is mounting in Lebanon ahead of parliamentary elections due to start later this month, with the Christian opposition openly accusing Damascus of "interfering" in the campaign.
Outgoing members of parliament of all denominations have turned on the pro-Syrian Lebanese leaders, accusing them of "bias," while the country's three main Christian opposition factions have said they will boycott the elections, accusing Syria of interfering in the choice of candidates.
Lebanon has become "a dependent, paralyzed state, with its affairs governed from Damascus," said a joint statement issued by the Free National Current of former prime minister General Michel Aoun, the National Liberal Party of Dory Chamoun, and the Lebanese Forces movement, whose leader Samir Geagea has been in prison since 1994.
The statement issued Tuesday called on voters "to boycott the poll and reject all attacks on the democratic system."
The three groups, which boycotted the two previous parliamentary elections in 1992 and 1996, have taken a harsh line towards Syria, which has held unrivalled influence over Lebanon since the end of the country's civil war in 1990.
A total of some 2.7 million Lebanese are eligible to vote for the single chamber parliament, which has 128 deputies, shared between Muslims and Christians, and is elected for four years.
The elections are to be held on August 27th and September 3rd according to region.
The Christian parties condemned what they describe as an unjust election law, gerrymandering of constituencies, "flagrant Syrian interference in alliances and choice of candidates," and "turning the voting process into an appointments exercise with the results known in advance."
Their comments followed a meeting with the Maronite patriarch, Nasrallah Sfeir, leader of the most influential Christian community before Damascus assumed its dominant role.
Sfeir has not come out in support of a boycott, but has condemned "pressures put on voters and candidates to form unnatural alliances."
Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a long-time ally of Syria, earlier caused a surprise by calling for a re-appraisal of relations between Beirut and Damascus, and rejecting intervention in the selection of candidates on his list.
Jumblatt, a former minister, has since focused his criticism on Interior Minister Michel Murr, who is known for his pro-Syrian stance and is an ally of President Emile Lahoud. The president's son, Emile junior, is on Murr's list of candidates - BEIRUT (AFP)
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