Rafik Hariri scored a landslide victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections, capturing all of Beirut's seats after a fierce battle that narrowed the president's choices for the next premier, reported the Daily Star.
The former prime minister's striking triumph sealed a general pro-opposition trend that marked the 2000 polls in North Lebanon and Mount Lebanon, the paper added.
Beirut's race culminated in a number of surprises the ouster of traditional families from the political scene, the emergence of Hariri as Beirut's unrivalled master and the arrival of Ghinwa Jalloul to Parliament, the first time the capital has elected a woman, according to the daily.
The paper added that despite his known reservations about Hariri, President Emile Lahoud suggested that MPs would have a decisive say in the choice of the new premier.
"It's an electoral massacre, it's a political earthquake," Hariri's campaigners shouted as vote counts began pouring in.
The elections in Beirut were marked by a brisk turnout of Sunni voters and poor participation by Christians, Armenians and Shiites. All told, 40 percent of Beirut's 397,000 eligible voters cast their votes. Unofficial results underlined unprecedented loyalty of the Sunni community to the former prime minister, trouncing incumbent MPs Salim Hoss and Tammam Salam, who had long dominated the capital's political scene, according to Daily Star.
Hariri's campaign machine claimed a clean sweep, although some observers argued that the actual score was 18 out of 19. In District Two, he had left a Shiite seat vacant to accommodate Hizbollah’s Mohammed Berjawi, who wound up figuring on both Hariri's list and Salam's rival National Accord ticket. This unusual phenomenon split the Shiite votes between the two.
Hariri's Karama (Dignity) Lists competed in all three districts, while Hoss and Salam headed one ticket each. Ironically, Interior Minister Michel Murr had admitted that Beirut was carved up into three electoral districts to prevent a Hariri sweep.
According to AFP, Lebanese Prime Minister Salim Hoss admitted Monday the crushing defeat in legislative elections against his billionaire predecessor.
"I bow to the results of the elections. I accept it democratically and act accordingly," Hoss said at a press conference.
But Hoss, who lost his parliamentary seat, also denied rumors he was resigning or giving up his political career, saying "I will continue to work from outside parliament."
Hariri returns to the House with a Beirut bloc even larger than the one he had in the outgoing Parliament. On the national level, he has also secured an overwhelming majority in Parliament through his alliance with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who swept the votes in two of Mount Lebanon's districts last week, and the support of several other MPs across the country, said the Lebanese daily.
The next phase will see the designation of a new prime minister, a process likely to include Syrian intervention to reduce the friction that has marred Lahoud's relations with Hariri, said the paper.
Soon after the voting ended at 6 p.m, Lahoud released a statement praising the elections as a "model" of democracy. He referred to the "next big event" of designating a premier, promising to abide by "the Constitution."
In District One, Hariri headed a six-member ticket that competed against two alliances headed by Fouad Makhzoumi and Saadeddine Khaled. In District Two, his five-out-of-six list clashed with Salam's five-man National Accord Alliance. In District Three, Hariri's entire alliance of seven defeated Hoss' own National Action List, said the paper.
In all three districts, Hariri and his allies appeared to have secured double the votes cast in favor of their rivals, it added.
IRAN PRAISES SHIITE GROUPS' ELECTORAL VICTORY IN LEBANON
Iran's foreign ministry on Monday praised the electoral sweep by an Iranian-supported Shiite Muslim coalition in Lebanon, calling it a victory for the Lebanese people, reported AFP.
"We hope that these victories continue ... and allow a deepening of relations between the Lebanese and Iranian peoples and governments," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said, as cited by Iranian radio.
Hizbollah and Amal, which are both supported by Iran and Damascus, reportedly took all the seats in south Lebanon and in the eastern Bekaa valley, which Asefi called "a new victory for the Lebanese people."
The agency added that the two Shiite groups entered the elections in an alliance after visits to Iran by Hizbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and Amal leader Nabih Berri, who is also speaker of the Lebanese parliament.
Ali Akbhar Velayati, an adviser to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, earlier visited Lebanon, where he met with Berri and President Emile Lahoud.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi also traveled to south Lebanon in May, just days after the end of Israel's 22-year occupation, which Hizbollah and Amal resisted by force of arms – (Several Sources)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)