Deputy Secretary-General of Hizb Allah Shaikh Naim Qassem provided counts conducted by his party so far showing the joint Hizb Allah-Amal ticket maintaing a substantial lead over opponent candidates.

Speaker of Parliament and Amal leader Nabih Berri has received more than 35,000 votes from the ballots that have been counted so far in the first electoral district.

The least amount of votes received by a candidate from the Hizb Allah-Amal coalition stood at about 32,000 votes.

The most votes garnered by an opposition alliance candidate went to Riad Asaad, who took at least 5300 votes, by the latest count.

Hizb Allah MP Mohammed Raad received more than 80,000 votes in the second electoral district in South Lebanon.

Asaad Hardan, also of the Hizb Allah-Amal alliance, won 76,000 votes, leaving his opponent Elias Abu Rizk trailing far behind with only 7000 votes.

Official results are not expected until Monday.

Vote for resistance

"Southerners are saying 'yes for uniting behind the resistance and embracing it," said Qassem. "(Voters) have sent a clear message to foreigners, especially to Americans: the people of Lebanon support the resistance."

The vote has been described as a
message to the US

He added: "The international community should understand that people voted only to protect the resistance."

The alliance between Hizb Allah, which spearheaded a military campaign that drove Israel out of Lebanon in May 2000, and Amal left no room for competition for candidates outside their ticket.

But the voter turnout was at least 44% in the two districts of the south. There are more than 670,000 eligible voters in South Lebanon.

The high voter turnout came in response to calls by Hizb Allah and Amal leaders, who urged people to take part in the polls as a show of support to the resistance against Israel amid international pressure to disarm Hizb Allah.

Voting process

The legislative polls in South Lebanon are the second stage in a four-round electoral process that is held on four consecutive Sundays.

"My vote for Hizb Allah is a present from a Lebanese citizen to the resistance during the elections that coincides with the fifth anniversary of the liberation," said Hussein Mukhtar in reference to the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000.

The majority of people in southern Lebanon are Shia, who suffered for 22 years of Israeli occupation and bombardment and they support Hizb Allah, which they say it protects them from any possible Israeli attack.

"Many men in Hizb Allah gave their blood to the country. They sacrificed themselves for the sake of Lebanon. Voting for their list is the least thing I can to return their good deeds," said Fatmeh Yuness, 21, in the southern town of Zahrani.

Following Nasrallah

Yuness, an active female member in Hizb Allah, said she voted for the entire list, because Hizb Allah leader Hassan Nasrallah asked his supporters to do so.

Many of South Lebanon's Shia
voted out of religious conviction

 

"Whatever Nasrallah says is a red line for us. We obey it without objecting to it and without arguing," she said. "He proved to be a wise man and a real leader."

 

Yuness added that Nasrallah is the religious representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Lebanon, whom she regards as her supreme theological authority (marja', taqleed) and whose instructions should be followed.

 

"This is another reason why I obey what Nasrallah tells us to do."