Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lebanese flock to polls in high-stakes vote

BEIRUT (AFP) — Lebanese queued up to vote on Sunday in a hotly-contested election that could see an alliance led by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah defeat the ruling Western-backed coalition.

Authorities appeared overwhelmed by the crowds of people who began lining up even before polling stations opened, with many Lebanese complaining of long waits of up three hours to cast their ballots.

"Such voter turnout is unheard of in the history of Lebanese elections," Interior Minister Ziad Baroud said.

About 50,000 police and soldiers were on patrol nationwide to prevent any violence between rival camps during the closely-fought election -- whose outcome is being keenly watched by Lebanon's neighbours and Western powers.

"Our destiny in Lebanon is to be either pro-West or pro-Iran and that is why this election is very important," said Beirut resident Simone Kosremelli after casting her ballot.

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