Polls close as Lebanon counts key election votes

Polling officially ended at 1600 GMT on Sunday in Lebanon’s hotly contested general election which pitted the Western-backed majority in parliament against an alliance led by Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

Voters already inside polling stations at the close of polls were still entitled to cast their ballots after people turned out in masses to vote in a crucial parliamentary election.

Voter turnout reached 53 percent, higher than the turnout in the 2005 elections, Lebanon’s interior minister said after polls closed.

Voting took place amid heavy security measures with the army and police deployed in force throughout the country, preventing any outbreak of violence between the two camps.

The election is expected to be a tight race for the 128-seat parliament between coalitions at odds over issues including the fate of Hezbollah’s powerful army and relations with neighboring Syria, which had forces in Lebanon until 2005.

Some polls forecast a narrow victory for Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, and its allies, including Christian leader Michel Aoun.

Candidates from the ruling March 14 party have raised concerns about a possible win by Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organization by the United States, and said they believed if the resistance group wins Lebanon would face isolation from the international community and regional powers, like Saudi Arabia.

Rumors circulated in Kasr Ouan about ballots being made with invisible ink, meaning names would only appear for two hours and then disappear, leaving a blank paper when it comes time for slips to be counted.

People were also reportedly using fake identification cards, required for every voter, in order to vote more than once.



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