Polling Stations Close in South Lebanon Amid Tension in Sidon

da Al Manar – 23/05/2010 Polling stations in south Lebanon closed at 7pm local time (1600GMT) Sunday marking the end of the third round of the four-phase municipal elections across Lebanon.
There were two scenes in the south just as the cote count started; celebrations in most towns for the yet-to-be-announced victory of the candidates backed by the Hezbollah-Amal Movement alliance, while on the other hand tension prevailed in the city of Sidon where the Future Movement backed list and the Oussama Saad (head of the Nasserite Popular Organization) backed list have been involved in a series of skirmishes.
Lebanese army units and security forces have been heavily deployed in the southern city where the turnout has been unofficially recorded at 50%.
Saad cried foul at what he called “buying votes” and called on the Interior Ministry to act to resolve this problem to preserve democracy and the electoral process.
For his part Mohammed Saudi, who heads the Future Movement backed list described the electoral process as “excellent” and found security measures in the city “reassuring.”
Interior Minister Ziad Baroud stressed his ministry was at the same distance from all competitors and that it will announce the results as soon as they become available.
Meanwhile, a more friendly competitive atmosphere prevailed in most villages and towns in the South in light of the consensus established by the Hezbollah and Amal movement with some exceptions adding more vitality to the electoral process.
In the villages adjacent to the border with occupied Palestine, where the Israeli occupation forces are carrying out their largest drill dubbed “Turning Point 4”, residents were celebrating and dancing the folklore Dabke just a few meters from Israeli vehicles patrolling the border line.
On Friday, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah called on all southerners to celebrate the victory of the Hezbollah-Amal alliance at a time the Israelis will be moving millions of their settlers into shelters.
According to national news agency (NNA), more than 73 municipal councils in the villages of the south won uncontested as a result of the Hezbollah-Amal alliance and they are distributed as follows:
·         24 in Tyre district
·         13 in Al-Nabatieh district
·         3 in Hasbaya district
·         9 in Marjayoun district
·         8 in Jezzine district
·         4 in Bint Jbeil district
·         12 in the district of Sidon-Zahrani district
Elections today are spread over eight districts in the South from Sidon to Tyre to Hasbaya and Shebaa.
About 355,000 people are registered to vote in southern Lebanon, but there was no official estimate on anticipated turnout as many of those on the electoral list live abroad. Lebanon’s phased local polls for a total registered electorate of 3.33 million are being held on every Sunday in May, except for May 16. The final round is scheduled for next week in the north of the country.

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