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Page last updated at 07:49 GMT, Saturday, 6 June 2009 08:49 UK

Campaigns end in key Lebanon vote

Saad Hariri addresses supporters at his last campaign rally in Beirut on June 5, 2009
Saad Hariri's ruling alliance holds a small majority in parliament

Campaigning has ended in Lebanon, a day ahead of Sunday's crucial election that pits the ruling Western-backed coalition against a Hezbollah-led bloc.

Analysts predict a close result between the US-backed 14 March alliance, which has a small majority in parliament, and its rivals, backed by Syria and Iran.

Thousands of Lebanese expatriates have flown home to vote.

Some 50,000 security personnel have been deployed to prevent violence, although none has been reported so far.

Knife-edge vote

Under Lebanon's political system, seats in parliament are split equally between Christians and Muslims, with further sub-divisions for each sect.

LEBANON ELECTIONS KEY FACTS
128-seat parliament. Seats divided along sectarian and communal lines - 64 for Muslims and 64 for Christians
MPs elected for four-year terms in 26 multi-seat constituencies
Voting age 21 years
Main factions: 14 March Coalition: Future movement, Progressive Socialist Party, Christian Lebanese Forces, Christian Phalangist party. 8 March Coalition: Hezbollah, Amal movement headed by the current parliamentary speaker, Nabih Birri. Free Patriotic Movement of Gen Michel Aoun

The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says competition is particularly fierce in Christian constituencies, with the Christian vote split evenly between the two camps.

In most other areas, the outcome can be predicted with relative certainty.

Hezbollah is fielding only 11 candidates for the 128-member parliament, though it is a powerful member of the broader opposition coalition, which includes the maverick Christian leader Michel Aoun, and the mainstream Shia movement Amal.

As such, Western fears of a Hezbollah "takeover" do not really fit the bill, our correspondent says.

Voting will begin early on Sunday morning.



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