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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 May, 2005, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Lebanon holds landmark election
Nazek Hariri, widow of former slain Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri
Rafik Hariri's widow was among the first to vote
Voters in Lebanon have taken part in the first parliamentary elections to be held for more than 30 years without Syrian troops in the country.

The first round was confined to the capital, Beirut. Voting will take place elsewhere over the next three Sundays.

Syrian troops withdrew last month following a wave of opposition protests blaming Damascus for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Mr Hariri's son Saad and his opposition allies seem set to win seats in Beirut.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says turnout appears to have been low, especially in the Christian parts of town, where some people said the outcome was already known.

Nine out of 12 Beirut seats have gone unchallenged to a largely anti-Syrian movement, the Martyr Rafik Hariri list, led by Saad Hariri.

Observers say the group is expected to capitalise on the feelings stirred by the former prime minister's death.

He was killed in car bomb in Beirut on 14 February. Syria denies any involvement.

'New political reality'

Polling to choose 128 MPs will take place over the coming weeks, with seats allocated to equal numbers of Christians and Muslims.

A Lebanese man walks past electoral posters of Saad Hariri and his father, in Beirut
Anti-Syrian factions are expected to do well

Next Sunday the voting will shift to the south of the country.

The two main Shia groups, Hezbollah and Amal, have formed the Resistance, Liberation and Development list, and are expected to win most of the seats there.

Our correspondent says the main competition is likely to be within the Maronite Christian camp.

Leading Christian opposition figure Michel Aoun - who has many supporters in the north - is heading his own election list after failing to agree on a broad opposition alliance.

Our correspondent says the election has been light on issues and heavy on horse-trading between the factions that have dominated the country's politics for decades.

But the election will consolidate a new political reality largely free from Syrian interference, he says.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
What Lebanese people think about the vote



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