Opposition wins key Lebanon vote

Lebanon's opposition has captured a key seat in parliament after thousands of voters chose replacements for two assassinated anti-Syrian politicians on Sunday.

Opposition wins key Lebanon vote

Lebanon's opposition has captured a key seat in parliament after thousands of voters chose replacements for two assassinated anti-Syrian politicians on Sunday.

The hotly contested race in the Christian district went to Kamil Khoury, a political newcomer backed by Michel Aoun, the Christian opposition leader, official results showed on Monday.

He beat Amin Gemayel, the government's candidate and father of Pierre Gemayel, the murdered MP.

Hassan Sabei, the interior minister, declared Khoury the winner by 418 votes in Mount Lebanon's Metn region, a Christian stronghold north of Beirut.

Khoury won with 39,534 votes, against Gemayel's 39,116 votes. Turnout was 46 per cent.

Government takes Beirut

In Beirut, the vote for Walid Eido's seat was easily won by Mohammed al-Amin Itani, a candidate of parliament majority leader Saad Hariri's Future Movement.

The Hezbollah-led opposition did not officially sponsor a candidate.

Sabei, whose ministry organises the balloting, declared Itani the winner with 22,988 votes. An opponent came a distant second, with 3,556 votes. Turnout was about 19 per cent.

Although Sunday's vote - which was largely peaceful - was for just two seats, the results were seen as a crucial showdown between the pro-US government and the opposition allegedly supported by Syria and Iran as legislators are due to elect a new president soon.

Popularity test

It was also seen as a popularity test for Gemayel, president from 1982-1988 and the head of one of Lebanon's most powerful Christian families, and Aoun, a former army commander and interim prime minister allied with the Hezbollah-led opposition who has already announced he would run for president.

Both are Maronite Catholics, as the traditional power-sharing agreement among the country's various religious sects since the 1943 independence dictates that the president must be.

Before the final results became clear, both sides in Metn had accused the other side of fraud.

Each had supporters celebrating in convoys on the streets in Beirut and the Metn region.

Witnesses and security officials said partisans of Aoun and Gemayel faced off in a neighbourhood east of Beirut late on Sunday, with scores of Lebanese army troops and riot police deployed to prevent trouble.

Antoine Nasrallah, a spokesman for Aoun, also told Al Jazeera that one of their supporters was wounded in the hand when he was shot at by Gemayel supporters near the town of Bikfaya.

Gemayel called for calm on the streets. "We don't want anyone to drag us into a confrontation that we don't need," he said.

Lebanon's government and opposition have been locked in a fierce power struggle for months, and the choice for a new president is important to both sides.

Al Jazeera and agencies

Last Mod: 06 Ağustos 2007, 14:12
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