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Lebanon's Former Christian Leader Wins Big in Election

Michel Aoun
Lebanon's Christian leader and ex-army chief, Michel Aoun, has won a huge victory in the third round of parliamentary elections, results show. Mr. Aoun's victory dealt a big blow to the main anti-Syrian opposition because the third round is crucial in deciding nearly half of the seats in the parliament.

Just five weeks back from a 14-year exile, anti-Syrian Christian leader Michel Aoun, caused a political upset during the third round of parliamentary elections in Lebanon, winning 15 out of 16 contested seats in the Maronite Christian area northeast of Beirut.

Despite the fact that Syria was responsible for his exile, General Aoun, broke away from the anti-Syrian coalition and in a surprise move, allied himself with pro-Syrian candidates. A spokesman for General Aoun, Ziad Abas says the agenda is about moving beyond the past and creating a future for Lebanon.

"He is looking at the future," he said. "All his campaign is based on the future and how should we proceed from now on. While I see all the other campaigns mainly concentrating on what happened before."

Aoun split from the anti-Syrian leader of the Druze, Walid Jumblatt, with whom he had supported an independence movement, the so-called Cedar Revolution. That movement peaked in March and pressured Syria to remove its troops from Lebanon. Aoun instead ran on a platform to defeat the old-guard with the help of pro-Syrian groups.

The opposition had hoped to challenge pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's three year extension in office by securing a majority. Now Walid Jumblatt, who won an uncontested seat, is accusing General Aoun of being a tool of Syria in order to gain power.

But General Aoun says his concern now is reforming Lebanon by drafting a new electoral law and demanding a financial audit to limit corruption in the Lebanese government.

The Shiite Muslim coalition headed by Hezbollah and Amal also claimed seats in the latest round of voting after sweeping the seats in the south during the second round of elections. The first round of voting in Beirut was a clean victory for the Future Movement led by Saad Hariri, the son of the slain former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Voting turnout in this most populous electoral district was the highest yet, exceeding more than 60 percent in some areas. Only 28 seats remain for the final round of voting scheduled to take place in the north on June 19.