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SLUG: 2-324939 Beirut/Elections (L-O)
TITLE=BEIRUT / ELECTIONS (L-ONLY)
HEADLINE: Hariri Bloc Sweeps Beirut Parliamentary Elections
INTRO: The Interior Ministry in charge of parliamentary elections in Lebanon announced a landslide victory for the son of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in the Beirut district. For VOA, Carrie Giardino reports from Beirut, three more rounds of voting in other regions of the country lie ahead.
TEXT: In the first vote since the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanese territory, official results are in from the first round of voting in Lebanon's parliamentary elections. The landslide victory went to the list of candidates headed by Saad Hariri, the son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Interior Minister Hassan al-Sabaa read the results on Monday.
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He announced the names of the candidates who secured the 10 seats still being contested during Sunday's vote. The Hariri ticket had already secured the nine other seats for the Beirut district, which were uncontested. Minister al-Sabaa says Saad Hariri's party secured the most votes overall and all 19 seats in Beirut.
After the death of the elder Hariri in a bomb attack on February 14th, his son Saad, a businessman in Saudi Arabia, returned to Lebanon to continue his father's political legacy. The assassination united many of the opposition parties, who called for the removal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
The elections, the first to welcome outside observers, was declared free and fair by the head of the European Union election observer team.
Less than 30 percent of the 400-thousand registered voters in the Beirut district cast their ballots on Sunday.
Many supporters of Christian politicians boycotted the elections, declaring that a 2000 electoral districting law still in use did not properly represent them. The Free Patriotic Movement, led by former General Michel Aoun, who returned from exile earlier this month, posted "no vote" signs throughout the Christian suburbs in Beirut.
Despite the low turnout, the Hariri camp claimed victory within hours of the polls closing Sunday night, and fireworks lit the skies, as crowds celebrated the victory.
The elections in Lebanon are held in four stages by region. The next round of parliamentary elections will take place in south Lebanon on Sunday. (SIGNED)
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