Critics of Lebanon's close links with Syria, led by Druze chief Walid Jumblatt, scored big gains in Sunday's parliamentary elections, press reports said Monday, quoted by AFP.
Quoting unofficial results, the major dailies an-Nahar and as-Safir underlined the crushing victories of candidates backed by Jumblatt in the Mount Lebanon region outside Beirut
During the campaign Jumblatt had called for greater balance in Beirut's relations with Damascus, the main power-broker in Lebanon and attacked the pro-Syrian government of President Emile Lahoud, said AFP.
Lebanese English Daily Star reported that opposition figures seemed poised to score important victories, but added that the elections “were, nonetheless, criticized for rampant illegalities.”
The results saw outgoing deputy Elie Hobeika, a protégé of Damascus, beaten, while the list backed by pro-Syrian Interior Minister Michel Murr also suffered, said the reports.
Pierre Gemayel, son of former president Amin Gemayel who only returned from exile in France a month ago, also won a seat despite campaigning as an independent, according to the agency.
In north Lebanon different pro-Syrian factions shared the spoils, with the list headed by the strongly pro-Damascus ministers Soleiman Frangie and Nagib Miqati conceding two seats to former prime minister Omar Karame and Nayla Mowaad, widow of assassinated president Rene Mowaad.
The interior ministry said Monday the official results would be announced from midday (0900 GMT)
The elections are in two stages, with the rest of the country going to the polls next Sunday.
Lebanon’s President Emile Lahoud commended the polls and urged all new MPs to cooperate to build a state based on the law, said Daily Star.
“Today's elections bear testimony to the state's adherence to the pledges it made to citizens to clamp down on any security breaches and guarantee free and honest polls," Lahoud said in a statement. "I hope the next elections will be the same ... This election day gave voters the chance to choose their representatives in total freedom."
Lahoud also called on all media to follow the standards set by the elections and halt any divisive campaigns.
Jbeil-Kesrouan saw the highest turnout, with almost two-thirds of Kesrouan voters casting their ballots, the paper said.
It added that the second-highest turnout was Chouf, with 64 percent, followed by Jbeil in District One with 59 percent and Aley in District Three with 55 percent.
On average, the turnout in Mount Lebanon's four voting districts stood at around 57 percent and at 46 percent in the North's two districts.
Daily Star cited judicial sources as saying that seven complaints of vote-rigging and election irregularities were recorded in Mount Lebanon. Both sides in the Bourj Hammoud incident filed complaints.
Also in Bourj Hammoud, three supporters of MP Nassib Lahoud scuffled with opponents but decided not to press charges.
In Kesrouan, a campaign worker for MP Fares Boueiz was arrested after being accused of paying $200 for a vote.
Naim Haddad was detained by army intelligence after being found carrying a large sum of money. Boueiz then telephoned State Prosecutor Adnan Addoum to argue that the charge had been fabricated.
Several other accusations of bribery in Metn and Jbeil-Kesrouan led to interrogations, but no arrests, reported the daily.
The army was quoted as saying that nationwide, 120 people were detained for illegally carrying weapons.
The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections said that extensive irregularities confirmed the state's bias.
"As the association expected and frequently warned ... state neutrality was violated through a number of voting irregularities," it was quoted as charging.
It claimed voters were bullied by representatives of government-backed candidates, heads of polling stations allowed Murr's campaign workers to harass voters, and that security forces were heavily deployed inside some polling stations, the paper said – Albawaba.com.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )