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9 Jun, 2009 06:39

Ruling coalition wins parliamentary elections in Lebanon

Lebanon's pro-western coalition has won the country's parliamentary election over the Hezbollah-led opposition, backed by Syria and Iran.

The two parties have been campaigning head-to-head in the crucial race: the pro-Western coalition, which currently dominates parliament, and Hezbollah, whose military wing is considered a terrorist group by the West.

With the votes counted, the opposition has gained roughly 57 seats in the 128-seat parliament, which is fewer than before, and there are 71 seats for the March 14 coalition, which means they'll stay in power.

There has been a record turnout at the polls in one of the most politically divided states in the Middle East and local newspapers are calling it the most expensive campaign in history, with millions of dollars pouring into Lebanon from around the globe.

Kamel Wazne, a political analyst, provided RT with his comments on this intriguing situation:

“Hezbollah and Israel are always at each other’s throats, and the United States have obviously put its prestige on the line,” he said.

The United States, Israel, Iran, Syria and Russia all have vested interests in the region. This is where Iran meets the US – at war by proxy.

”It’s a pie. And this pie is divided. You can probably get, you know, a little inch here, little inch there, but no one will have a mandate,” Wazne continued.

Record number of expats arrived to cast their votes from as far away as the US, Canada, Brazil, other Arab states, as well as from Iran and Syria, and many people told RT that they had their air tickets paid for by one party or another.

The Lebanese Diaspora, which is double the country’s resident population, has been lured by various parties to vote here, and to vote for them.

“I came to make my choice,” a female passenger in Beirut airport told RT.

“I don’t vote for a particular candidate. I vote for a strong state, army and power,” said another passenger, explaining his position.

But despite the foreign stakes, the Lebanese are still hopeful they are the ones deciding their future. The Lebanese people hope, whatever the result, it won't lead their country back to the turmoil of the past.

With a name like his, Slayman Kamel could run for parliament. Instead, this president’s namesake claims to be Lebanon’s last apolitical man.

“I’m not going to vote. We should get rid of politicians, and then we’ll have peace,” he says.

Pre-election squabbles are heard on every corner in Beirut, but Slayman, instead, quietly reminisces about his country’s former glory.

“Lebanon was beautiful in the 1960s. They called us the ‘Switzerland of the East’, with our colonial history and independent thinking. We all got along, we had great potential,” a shisha [hookah]-smoking man recalls.

But clan divisions threw this once-thriving, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society into a devastating civil war. After 15 years of fighting, the Lebanese started to get back on their feet in 1990, only to fall again in 2006.

“I dream of the time when other countries won’t meddle in Lebanese affairs,” the man says.

The leader of the victorious March14 coalition, Saad Hariri, has described the road ahead for Lebanon as still being hard and long.

Israel has called on Hezbollah to lay down its arms. But Hezbollah says their military arsenal is not open for discussion.

In Lebanon things can get out of control rather quickly, and it has yet to be seen whether the victory of the ruling block will maintain the status quo or push the country into unrest.