Alliances among rival politicians produce consensual lists in most localities.
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
BEIRUT — Tens of thousands of Lebanese headed to their Mount Lebanon hometowns Sunday to vote in the first of four-stage municipal elections marked largely by consensus among rival politicians.Additional army and police forces have been deployed in Mount Lebanon towns and outside polling stations to ensure security for the vote.The election is seen as a test for coexistence in a nation where sectarian resentment continues 20 years after the end of a 1975-1990 civil war.However, voting was expected to be peaceful as electoral alliances among rival politicians have produced consensual lists in most towns and villages.It also comes in the context of improved relations between Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri's Western-backed coalition and the Iranian-backed Hizbullah and its allies since the two sides joined a fragile national unity government formed in November.Only few areas were bracing for closely fought electoral contests, mainly between rival Christian parties.Lebanon's 4 million population is roughly divided in thirds between Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shi'ite Muslims, with smaller sects mixed in.Municipal elections in Lebanon are held every six years. The three remaining stages of voting will be held this month.
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