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Lebanon Struggles for Stability on Eve of Elections

Lebanon is a fractured land that has a long-standing struggle among a mixture of Christian sects, Sunnis, Shias, Druze and other religious factions. Since a resurgence of hostilities in 2006, when Israel launched a major military campaign against the armed group Hezbollah, the country has struggled to regain the relative stability it enjoyed after the 1975-1990 civil war and it now prepares for parliamentary elections on June 7.

Religion is the political fault line that runs through Lebanon. It is not just Islam and Christianity, but also the sects within those religions.

The divisions led to civil war in 1975 that lasted 15 years. Out of the ashes of the war, Lebanon's fragile new democracy was born. It saw the allocation of parliamentary seats based on religious divide.

Maronite Christian candidate Massoud Ashkar says he believes Lebanon's system needs to change.

"It is not the realistic law that we need for all the people, but we will deal with it," he said. "We hope that next time there will be another law, an electoral law, where all the Lebanese will be on the same level."

But American University of Beirut Political Science Professor Hillal Khashan disagrees.

"Let us be realistic, Lebanon is built on a political fault line and to tell you the truth and to be honest, I like it the way it is because it cannot get any better," he said. "If they try to make it better, it will get worse."

The most powerful religious-political faction in Lebanon is the Muslim Shia group, Hezbollah. It began as a militia set-up to expel Israel from Lebanon in the 1980s. It has moved into the political domain, but it has yet to give up its arms.

Independent candidate, Walid Maalouf, says it is time for Hezbollah to disarm.

"I disagree with Hezbollah. We must stop having this kind of ideas that we want to have arms in our hands to protect ourselves from any foreign attacks," said Maalour. "The Lebanese army should have the only power and the only say so in protecting the Lebanese territories."

But a Hezbollah member of parliament, Nawar Sahili, says the group will disarm when Lebanon is stronger.

"We think the day we stop the resistance Israel will come into Lebanon like they are tourists," Sahili said. "So we have to have our resistance and our people protecting Lebanon until we have a strong army and a strong state."

Analysts say the first step to strengthening Lebanon is security and stability. Lebanese democracy may not be perfect, but it appears to have so far managed to unite a deeply divided country.