A fraction of eligible Lebanese voters went to the polls today to choose between March 14's and Syria's candidates. I say fraction because a large number of registered voters reside outside the country, where they work and save the economy from collapse through remittances. Interestingly, Lebanon was quicker to naturalize some 90,000 Armenians, nomads, Palestinians and Syrians in a controversial naturalization law designed to give the Syrian regime guaranteed votes in Tripoli, Beirut, Metn, Bekaa and the south. Lebanese residing abroad, however, cannot vote.
For that, a 45%+ turnout in Metn is considered high, and to an extent, Beirut's 18%. With the voting age in Lebanon stuck at 21, energized elders constitute the majority of voters. This might explain why we never see new faces in parliament, and why candidates operate in the shadow of their leaders. For instance, no one had ever heard of Aoun's Camille Khoury. And very few even heard his voice during the electoral campaign. The same goes for Saad Hariri's candidate, whose name many don't even remember.
Early results are showing a slight lead for Amin Gemayel in Metn. Khoury lost in his own village, and Ain Alaq, which was the site of a terrorist bombing, voted for Gemayel. Watch this space for updates.
Update. The Future Movement (March 14) candidate in Beirut, Mohammad Itani, can be projected as the winner of the Beirut by-election, with 12733 votes in 150 out of 250 "qalams" .
Update 2. LBC says Metn election is too close to call. Awaiting the results from two remaining boxes.
Update 3. Michel Aoun has just announced the victory of his candidate, Camille Khoury. Aoun called on his supporters to go to Jdeideh (where the votes are being counted) to counter "attempts to cancel some of the results".
Update 4. Gemayel's advisor Saim Sayegh told Marcel Ghanem on LBC that the count was not over, denying that Aoun's candidate had won. The Lebanese Forces website reports 320 boxes out of 348 counted, with
39,534 votes. Amin Gemayel got 39,116. Voter turnout in Metn: 46.5%.