Army starts widespread security operation ahead of Lebanese polls

The Lebanese army began early Saturday to deploy throughout Lebanon, a day before a tense parliamentary election which is expected to produce a tight race between the western-backed ruling majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition.

A Lebanese army source said that all branches of the army had been put on alert and were setting up strict security measures to ensure public security and the safety of voters during Sunday’s polling.

The source said that over 40,000 Lebanese soldiers had been deployed, in addition to around 15,000 members of the Internal Security Forces.

The source added that Army Commander Jean Kahwaji held a meeting of military officials on Friday during which he urged the army to be alert so as to ensure the safety of voters and assure a free vote.

He also urged officers to be firm in containing conflicts and told “them to show zero tolerance toward those responsible for security breaches,” the source said.

Meanwhile, the streets of Beirut looked mostly deserted, as all government institutions and schools were closed until after the results of the parliamentary election are announced on Monday.

The voting will take place between 7 am and 7 pm (0400-1600 GMT) in more than 1,700 voting centers in 26 electoral districts. The centers, which include more than 5,000 individual voting booths, will be manned by approximately 11,500 civil servants.

Interior Minister Ziad Baroud stressed on Friday the importance of ensuring that the parliamentary elections meet international standards, after meeting with the head of the European Commission to Monitor the Elections, Jose Ignacio Salafranca.

At a separate press conference, Baroud said 85.2 per cent of electoral and polling staff had voted on Thursday, in what he called a “rehearsal” for Sunday’s elections.

He said there had been some complaints about the ink used for fingerprints, but he affirmed that the ink was widely used in the developed world and that it could not be easily removed.

Baroud said it would be difficult for anyone to use a forged identification card on Sunday. He also said that 600 complaints regarding problems with ID cards had been rectified.


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