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November 06, 2002

Lebanon's democracy under threat with annulment of poll result: opposition

I belive that there is a growing anti-Syrian movement that is growing in Lebanon, especially among the Christians in that country, and that, given time, there will be increasing militancy within Syria's client client state. How this will play out with Iranian support for Hizbollah, remains to be seen.

BEIRUT (AFP) - Lebanon's anti-Syrian Christian opposition condemned the annulment of a by-election victory by one its candidates as a step toward the scrapping of parliamentary democracy in the country.

The decision by Lebanon's top court showed that "the authorities fear public opinion and are trying to taint the democratic face of Lebanon," said the Qornet Shehwan gathering of Christian political and religious figures.

"It is the penultimate step before the annulment of parliamentary democracy in Lebanon and the establishment of a state of emergency like in dictatorships," the opposition said in a statement.

On Monday, the Constitutional Council annulled Gabriel Murr's victory on a petition by his defeated niece Myrna Murr, the government candidate, in the June 2 poll and handed victory to Ghassan Mkheiber, who was placed third.

Mkheiber met late Tuesday with Maronite Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir and told reporters he was leaving it up to the patriarch to decide whether he should resign.

Beirut newspapers denounced the court's annulment as a "masquerade" which discredited Lebanon's judicial system.

The by-election renewed tensions between supporters and opponents of Syria's dominant role in Lebanon and was followed by a government crackdown on anti-Syrian broadcast media owned by Gabriel Murr.