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Hariri Candidates Claim Victory in Beirut Parliamentary Elections


Saad Hariri, son of Lebanon's slain former Premier Rafik Hariri, gestures during his visit to a polling station in Beirut

The opposition bloc led by the son of the slain former prime minister Rafik Hariri is claiming landslide victory In Beirut in the first round of Lebanese parliamentary elections Sunday.

Fireworks Illuminate the skies over Beirut Sunday as Saad Hariri claims a clean sweep of the city's 19 parliamentary seats during the first round of staggered elections in Lebanon. The Hariri ticket had secured nine uncontested seats prior to the start of voting and now says the final 10 seats in Beirut are also theirs.

The elections are the first in three decades held without the presence of outside forces.

Syrian troops left Lebanon last month after public outcry over the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in February, which many blame on Syria. Hariri's second eldest son Saad took up his father's political mantle by leading an electoral list of many of the candidates who ran with his father in the 2000 elections.

The younger Hariri spoke to the press after casting his vote early on Sunday.

He says these elections are an opportunity to continue the work of his father and a chance for democracy.

Saad Hariri was working as a businessman in Saudi Arabia when his father died in the bombing. Although he is new to politics, many predict he will be Lebanon's next prime minister.

The Interior ministry reported turnout In the elections was low, with less than 30 percent of the eligible voters casting their ballots. The ministry says official results will be released Monday.

The head of the European Union team of election observers declares that the vote was free and fair despite the low voter turnout. The next round of elections will take place in South Lebanon on June 5.

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