May 30 2005
Democracy continues to sweep the Arab world as voters in Lebanon use their first opportunity in decades elect their own government without outside control. And it appears the voters are sending a clear signal by backing candidates loyal to the assassinated Hariri’s son.
Candidates loyal to the son of assassinated politician Rafik Hariri swept the first Lebanese election largely free of Syrian domination, claiming all 19 parliamentary seats in Beirut, results showed Monday.
The vote was largely a tribute to the former prime minister whose death in a bombing earlier this year triggered international anger and street protests that ultimately drove the Syrian army out of Lebanon.
The United States was closely watching the vote, along with other governments that had pushed for a Syrian troop withdrawal followed by a timely election.
Interior Minister Hassan Sabei, announcing the official results, said Saad Hariri and his allies won all 10 contested seats. Hariri’s ticket automatically won nine other seats where there were no challengers.
Hariri was the biggest vote-getter, collecting about 40,000 ballots, five times those of the loser in one constituency. But turnout was low, about 27 percent of the 473,000-plus eligible voters, compared with 35 percent in the 2000 parliamentary elections.
The only downside is the low turnout, but that could be a sign that the lebanese are not convinced yet that Syria’s strongmen are completely out of the picture. One thing is for sure, these events are a direct reflection on the policies George Bush put in place after 9/11. And the echos of these policies have not been diminished one bit.