First parliamentary elections in nine years in Lebanon to be held

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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, casts his vote for Lebanon's parliamentary elections, at a polling station, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Sunday, May 6, 2018. Drivers relentlessly honked their horns to draw attention to their allegiance.

The vote was held under a new proportional system that has confused some voters and made the contest more unpredictable.

Television broadcasts showed voters queuing at polling stations to cast their ballots.

A Lebanese man showcases his ink-stained thumb after casting his vote in the first Lebanese parliamentary election in nine years, in the coastal city of Byblos, north of the capital Beirut.

"In the last quarter of the hour, we have to raise the voter turnout to the maximum, like the attractive partridges of our mountains", Druze chief Walid Jumblatt tweeted. I'm here to practice my right for democracy, I'm not obliged to wait two to three hours.

Across the capital, stands plastered with political party colors and housing rival party supporters lined the sidewalks leading to the polling stations.

Mohammed Ali, 30, riding his scooter to the beach, said he's not voting because there are no choices.

At the same time, certain ethnic and religious groups are ensured political representation, as has been the case in the past.

The polling stations across the country opened at 7:00 a.m. local time (0400 GMT).

"There are a lot of people who are being paid to vote", she told Arab News.

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The President also called voting "a sacred duty".

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Paying for votes is strictly against election rules but common in Lebanese elections.

The polls see 917 candidates from a host of competing political parties compete for 128 seats in Lebanon's national assembly. Wary of voters' apathy toward a vote unlikely to change much, he urged people to turn out in large numbers.

"It's the first time for me, and we're excited". "Finally there is a sense of organization among the stations".

The counting of the ballots will begin at the close of polls with official results of the election being expected on Monday. Lebanon's government was supposed to finish its four-year term in 2013, but instability in neighbouring Syria and an effort to reform the country's electoral system meant Parliament's tenure was extended twice.

Observers said before the election that the country's youth is tired of a political elite laden with charges of corruption that has left voters with no viable alternatives, coupled with a new proportional voting system that has confused some of the Lebanese electorate.

On Sunday morning, President Michel Aoun gave a brief statement to the gathered press, addressing one of the more perplexing aspects of the new law; the preferential vote.

Under this arrangement, the majority system has been replaced and the threshold needed to win an election lowered - a plan that should benefit independents and reformers, easing the grip on the power of the country's main clans.

It reduces the number of electoral constituencies from 23 to 15, and allows voters to choose both an electoral list and a preferred candidate from that list.

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