Opposition Claims Lebanon Victory

Lebanese boys supporting opposition leader Saad Hariri, son of Lebanon's slain former Premier Rafik Hariri, sit on top of a car as they campaign during the fourth and last stage of Lebanon's parliamentary elections, in the port city of Tripoli, northern Lebanon, Sunday, June 19, 2005.
The anti-Syrian opposition captured control of Lebanon's parliament Monday, breaking Damascus' long domination of the country, after the opposition candidates swept all seats in the final round of the elections, according to unofficial results.

Opposition leader Saad Hariri's slate won all seats in the north, guaranteeing a majority in parliament, said one of his campaign officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. A pro-Syrian leader, former Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh, said earlier Monday that the opposition had triumphed in Sunday's polls in north Lebanon, the last round of the staggered elections.

Men, women and children waved flags and danced in the streets of Tripoli, the provincial capital of the north, as news of the opposition victory spread. In Beirut, the national capital, opposition supporters drove through the city, cheering and honking in celebration.

The anouncement of official results by the Interior Ministry was delayed as the counting took longer than expected.

The election was marred by vote-buying and other shortcomings. The head of the European Union observers, Jose Ignacio Salafranca, said his team of about 100 personnel had "directly witnessed a few attempts at vote-buying" in the three previous rounds of voting. He also said the electoral system needs "a very serious reform to be closer to the democratic standards."

The buying of votes was a "very serious concern" for the EU team, Salafranca said.

President Emile Lahoud called on the new parliament Monday to reform the electoral law to "put an end to vote-buying and give an equal opportunity to all candidates."