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Hariri son leads Lebanese poll


LEBANESE ELECTIONS
AT STAKE: All 128 seats in Parliament. Legislature is
divided equally between Christians and Muslims, with most of the 18
sects getting a slice.

FOUR STAGES: Elections will be held on four consecutive Sundays in different parts of the country, beginning with Beirut on May 29.

ALREADY DECIDED: A total of 17 seats have been won uncontested because there were no challengers.

Source: The Associated Press
YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
Lebanon
Syria
Parliament
Rafik Hariri

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- The opposition bloc led by a son of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has won a decisive victory in round one of Lebanon parliamentary sections.

In the first vote since the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanese territory, official results showed the list led by Saad Hariri won all 19 seats up for grabs in the capital of Beirut amid low turnout in the first of four rounds of balloting.

Announcing the official results at a news conference on Monday, Interior Minister Hassan Sabei said Hariri and allies won all 10 contested seats.

Hariri's anti-Syrian bloc had already won nine of those 19 seats in the 128-member parliament before the vote because they were not contested.

Even before official results were in, Hariri's supporters took to the streets in celebration Sunday night, cheering the first poll free of Syrian involvement in 29 years.

Hundreds danced outside the family's palatial residence in Beirut's Koreitem neighborhood as fireworks lit the night sky.

"It's a win for democracy," the 35-year-old Hariri said.

"It's a win for my father. It's a win for liberty, for freedom of speech -- for freedom."

Saad's mother Nazick, who wears her murdered husband's wedding ring on a chain around her neck, was among the first to vote Sunday.

She was displaying her family's determination, she said, to overcome her family's tragedy, prevail in politics and find her husband's killers.

No one has been charged in the February car bombing that killed the elder Hariri, a businessman-turned-politician who led Lebanon's pro-Syrian government before becoming an advocate of Syria's withdrawal.

His death sparked massive protests and renewed international pressure on Damascus to withdraw the nearly 14,000 troops and intelligence officers it kept in Lebanon -- a pullout that was completed in April.

"This is the first time that we elect without the Syrian occupation," candidate Gebran Tueni said.

"This is the first time the lists are composed in Lebanon, not in Damascus."

But pre-election debates exposed a split among an opposition front that was once united against Syria.

Lebanese complained that Hariri's ticket lacked representation of political factions and challengers in some constituencies.

"I would have preferred a real campaign with a debate, discussion, and maybe new faces," one voter said.

But for now, say western diplomats, this election that relies on lists of candidates, is as good as it is likely to get in a process of transition.

CNN Beirut Bureau Chief Brent Sadler contributed to this report.


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