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March 8 polls strongly in southern districts

6/8/2009 (Daily Star)

SOUTH LEBANON: Voters in South Lebanon cast their ballots on Sunday, with preliminary results showing the victory of the March 8 Forces in a number of southern regions, including Nabatieh. In the districts of Nabatieh, Marjayoun-Hasbaya and Bint Jbeil, polling stations witnessed heavy turnout from the early hours of the day.

The elections were conducted amid strict security measures in the presence of international, European and Arab observers, who described the electoral atmosphere as "very good."

Candidates in the Bint Jbeil electoral district included March 8 Forces Shiite candidates Ayoub Humayed, Hassan Fadlallah and Ali Bazzi. Six independent candidates also took part in the electoral battle.

The National News Agency (NNA) said the elections were held in a "calm" atmosphere amid heavy deployment of security forces. The turnout exceeded 40 percent.

After voting in Tibnin, Speaker Nabih Berri that in the South the elections "are considered a referendum for the resistance, national unity and liberation."

As for Nabatieh, where the turnout was estimated between 55 and 65 percent, results showed that the three Shiite seats would be occupied by the March 8 Forces candidates: Abdel-Latif Zein, Mohammad Raad and Yassin Jaber. The battle also included 11 independent candidates.

The Lebanese security forces set up fixed and mobile checkpoints around polling stations and inside them.

Hizbullah MP Mohammad Raad complained that the high turnout coupled with "unprecedented" measures by the government in each polling station "has led to overcrowding."

"The main problem is the high number of voters in each station coupled with a decrease in the number of centers ... as a result of insistence on holding a one-day elections," Raad said.

The head of Hizbullah's parliamentary bloc added that citizens were "paying the price of [one-day elections] by waiting in long queues in front of polling stations."

In Marjayoun-Hasbaya, the turnout was estimated at 45 percent, while in Tyre it reached 50 percent. The process did not witness any security violations in both areas and took part in a calm atmosphere, the NNA said.

In Marjayoun-Hasbaya, the March 14 Forces and the March 8 Forces competed over five seats, including two Shiite, one Sunni, one Greek Orthodox and one Druze.

In Tyre, a total of seven candidates competed for the regions four Shiite seats.

Security forces were heavily deployed in both regions, while the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) conducted patrols along border regions.

In Zahrani, about 50 percent of voters cast ballots, amid complaints of what they described as a slow electoral process due to heavy turnout.

According to the NNA, some people complained about the absence of their names from lists of voters.

"The southern town of Sarafand witnessed the highest voting rate which exceeded 50 percent," the NNA report said. "The electoral process was conducted in a calm atmosphere in the absence of any clashes."

Copyright© 2004 The Daily Star.