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Fourth and Final Round of Lebanese Elections Underway in North


Banners of Saad Hariri's slogan "As it is," referring to his call to vote for his entire electoral list, hang amid pictures of various Lebanese electoral candidates, in Tripoli, northern Lebanon
Voters are going to the polls in northern Lebanon where the fourth and final round of parliamentary elections is underway. The elections, which have been taking place in separate regions over the past four weeks, are the first to take place in decades without Syrian domination. There is fierce competition to see if pro or anti-Syrian factions can win a majority in the 128 seat parliament.

After staging a political upset just one week ago, anti-Syrian leader and former General Michel Aoun is joining forces once again with pro-Syrian candidates in the hopes of winning seats away from his former opposition allies in the north of the country.

The anti-Syrian opposition bloc led by Saad Hariri, the son of the slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the leader of the Druze, Walid Jumblatt have been staging rallies in Tripoli and other main cities in the north in the hopes are securing at least 21 of the final 28 seats and gaining a majority in the parliament.

The opposition bloc had originally expected to easily win a majority, riding on a wave of sympathy that began with the assassination of Rafik Hariri in February. But General Aoun returned from a 14 year Syrian imposed exile in early May and split from the opposition.

Many young supporters of General Aoun like Mark Sawma, say he represents change for Lebanon because he did not contribute to the debt that has accumulated since the end of the civil war in 1990.

"We hope that General Aoun is going to win because he's a good guy and he didn't rob the country like others did. He's clean and he's a patriot," he said. "We need clean people, new people and not the old rubbish. Even if he's old, even as high as 120, still let's hope that he will be the president of Lebanon."

After a strong showing of support in the third round of elections, General Aoun, a Christian, says he is considering a bid for the presidency. Distribution of top offices in Lebanon is based on religious lines and the office of the presidency is traditional reserved for a Christian.

The opposition is hoping to win a majority of seats in the hopes of ousting the pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud but another strong showing at the polls for General Aoun could prevent that.

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