Lebanon's PM Hariri says parliament bloc down by a third

Men abound while women are rarely to be spotted on the lists of the mainstream parties competing for power in Lebanon's elections. India Stoughton  The National

The Interior Ministry has not published its official results, 23 hours after polls closed. "If you want change, you should exercise your right" to vote, he said in a message published on Twitter at the same time.

"Lebanon is an independent country".

Hezbollah has grown in strength and regional influence since joining the war in Syria in 2012 in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The official results of the election are expected to be available by the end of Monday.

Turnout was 49.2%, down from 54% the last time legislative elections were held nine years ago.

The election was conducted using a highly complicated new proportional law, with final results delayed as a result. In other polling stations, the counting was already under way. The army ordered the media to turn off their cameras.

Imad Risk, general manager of the Isticharia Strategic & Communication Studies in Beirut, told Xinhua that whoever wins or loses in this election, Lebanon has set a good example not only for own domestic politics but also for the region. Lebanon's prime minister has to be a Sunni under its power-sharing system.

"We can say that Lebanon now is giving itself a new image that democracy, freedom and also responsibility are possible in Arab countries", he said.

Major players in this year's election include the Future Movement, led by incumbent Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri; the Free Patriotic Movement, led by Christian President Aoun's son-in-law Gebran Bassil; the Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed powerful Shiite political faction; the Amal Movement, led by incumbent Speaker Nabih Berri; and the Lebanese Forces, a Christian opponent of Hezbollah.

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"This shows Lebanon's democracy and the importance of democracy".

As Hariri entered a public school in Beirut to vote, a woman in a wheelchair complained that polling stations were not equipped for disabled voters. "Order is nice", he quipped.

Hezbollah and its allies won more than a third of the 128 seats, giving them veto power. But shortly after returning to Beirut, he withdrew his resignation and mended broken fences with Hezbollah. "Who knows", she said.

The election came after an intense campaign cycle where establishment parties hastily glued together a dizzying map of local alliances to navigate the new electoral law, which appeared to offer an opportunity for change.

Under the terms of the new law, voters cast two votes, one for a list of candidates and one for a single preferred candidate.

Mohammed Ali, 30, riding his scooter to the beach, said he was not voting because there are no choices.

Lamenting the tepid turnout, he said "whoever didn't vote can not object to what happens in the future".

What Hariri did achieve was a tiny breakthrough in the Baalbak-Hermel district in the northern Bekka, a traditional Hezbollah stronghold, where he managed to wrestle the Muslim seat from Hezbollah's control, along with the Christian seat, which went to his ally Samir Gagegea of the Lebanese Forces (LF), an all-Maronite party affiliated with Hariri's Future Movement.

"No one should underestimate the importance of their vote or think that heading down to the ballot box is too much to ask", said Ahmad Hariri, the secretary-general of the premier's Future Movement. He said that while Hariri is still likely to form the next government, he is now weaker and new conditions are likely to be imposed on him. The rival sides are expected to recreate the unity government that now exists, which includes Hezbollah. It was the first time Lebanon's large expatriate community was allowed to take part in an election.

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