Lebanon's new election law unlikely to upset balance of power

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett

"Divisive issues such as Hezbollah's weapons and the controversy over its participation in regional conflicts are nearly entirely absent from the electoral campaigns, indicating implicit acceptance of the party's domestic hegemony", wrote analyst Joseph Bahout in an article for the Carnegie Middle East Center.

There is a record number of women and non-party candidates running in the elections, even though the lion's share of seats is expected to be gained by representatives of the six main political parties.

Hezbollah's secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, has given televised speeches on a almost weekly basis.

"If it fails to get a majority, then we are likely to see a reproduction of the status quo, " said Mohanad Hage Ali, director of communications for the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

It's the first election to take place under a new electoral law that redrew the country into 15 voting districts, with 27 subdistricts, introducing proportional representation.

Safety was tight at polling stations with just a few studies of skirmishes between supporters of some candidates, notably within the Beirut II district of the capital and within the japanese Lebaneses metropolis of Zahle within the Bekaa Valley.

Zahraa Harb, left, casts her vote at a polling station during Lebanon's parliamentary elections in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, May 6, 2018.

MR MAHMOUD DAOUK, a voter in Beirut.

Hezbollah has despatched hundreds of fighters to again Assad's forces, a transfer that has been criticized by many Lebanese, primarily Sunni Muslims and Christians, who see the group as dragging the nation into regional conflicts.

Outside polling stations, Hezbollah supporters displayed a replica of the voting ballot on a big board and explained to voters which among the color-coded lists was theirs and how to vote for it.

Hezbollah's allies include the Shi'ite Amal Movement led by Nabih Berri, the Christian Free Patriotic Movement established by President Michel Aoun and other groups and individuals that view its weapons as an asset to Lebanon.

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Extensions were given to those who were already waiting at voting centres when the clock hit 7pm. "Voting operations were very slow". Its biggest party is the Future Movement, led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

"No one should underestimate the importance of their vote or think that heading down to the ballot box is too much to ask", he said.

Voters interviewed Sunday said they were anxious about corruption throughout Lebanon's political elite.

"In the last quarter of the hour, we have to raise the voter turnout to the maximum, like the lovely partridges of our mountains", Druze chief Walid Jumblatt tweeted.

Lebanon has long had a power-sharing political system between the different religious denominations.

Two women, television journalist Paula Yacoubian and author Joumana Haddad, looked poised to secure a seat from which they have pledged to challenge political dynasties they condemn as corrupt.

A senior official of Hezbollah warned that Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh are interfering in Lebanon's parliamentary elections to strike at the resistance group during the polling process, but ensured that the efforts would be to no avail.

Mr Hariri, while expected to be unable to hold all of his seats in parliament, is predicted to win another term as prime minister.

After the last election in 2009, the onset of Syria's civil war, the arrival of over a million refugees and a series of militant attacks aggravated internal political rifts. The prime minister promised to handle the issue within the subsequent elections.

Lebanon's parliamentary make-up reflects the amalgamation of communities, religions and sects living side-by-side in the country.

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