March 14 Maintains Parliamentary Majority in Record Turnout
The March 14 alliance clinched around 70 out of 128 seats, maintaining its majority in parliament after defeating the Hizbullah-led alliance in Sunday's crucial elections. Celebrations broke out in several cities as television stations began airing preliminary results.

The opposition confirmed defeat. "We have lost the election," said a senior politician close to the March 8 alliance. "We accept the result as the will of the people."
They must really have been beaten ...
MP Hassan Fadlallah reiterated Hizbullah's calls for "national partnership" and said the March 8 alliance is reacting "positively" to the outcome of the elections. "Hizbullah considers Lebanon to be founded on diversity and pluralism not on majority and minority. No side can obtain majority in all the sects," Fadlallah told Agence France Presse.

Counting of votes continued well past midnight in Metn, Kesrouan and Baabda districts.

More than half the country's 3.2 million eligible voters queued at polling stations to cast their ballots. Preliminary estimates put turnout at more than 54%, well above the 45.8% recorded in the 2005 election. "Voter turnout exceeded all expectations," Interior Minister Ziad Baroud said after polls closed at 7:00 pm. The highest turnout was in Kesrouan district at 70%. Turnout was at 65% in Metn and Jbeil, 60% in Batroun and 63% in Akkar, Baroud said.

The vote that started at 7:00 am took place amid heavy security measures with the army and police deployed in force throughout the country to prevent any outbreak of violence.

President Michel Suleiman was among the first to cast his vote in Amsheet. "I call on all citizens to exercise their democratic role quietly and happily," he said. "The president backs all candidates...we have to preserve democracy."

A steady stream of vehicles headed south, north or east from Beirut on highways to outlying parts of the country early Sunday morning, carrying voters to hometowns. Some vehicles had flags of political groups fluttering to show loyalty.

More than 200 international observers from the European Union, the Carter Center and other institutions and countries oversaw the election. Speaking at a polling station in Ashrafiyeh, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter expressed hope the U.S., Iran and other countries "will accept the results of the election and not try to interfere in the process."

There were widespread complaints about delays in the process, forcing voters to stand in lines. Baroud asked people to be patient. He said he was satisfied with the way polling had proceeded but would be even happier if all political parties accepted the outcome once it is announced.

"Grosso modo I am satisfied with the way the vote took place," he said. "But I will be more satisfied if everything goes well once the results are in.

"The election was a challenge that many doubted would take place. But Lebanon's political factions and the Lebanese met the challenge."

In the outgoing parliament, the pro-Western March 14 bloc had 70 seats and Hizbullah's alliance had 58. Voters chose 125 candidates after 3 contenders have won the elections uncontested.
Posted by: Steve White 2009-06-08