Lebanon to elect its first new parliament since 2009

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Zahraa Harb, left, casts her vote at a polling station during Lebanon's parliamentary elections in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, May 6, 2018.

No polling extension was decided, but in some areas, large numbers of people were still queuing up to vote when the clock struck 7:00 p.m. (16:00 GMT).

Alexandre Salha, a 30-year volunteer with the "Kulluna Watani" civil society list, gathered with other supporters in a Beirut cafe after the vote and said the most important thing was to get a foot in the door.

"Hold on to your free will and do not allow any pressure to be exerted on you", Aoun said.

Outside polling stations, Hezbollah supporters displayed a replica of the voting ballot on a big board and explained to voters which among the color-coded lists was theirs and how to vote for it.

According to Fars News Agency, there are up to 3.8 million registered voters in the country.

A new system of proportional representation was used in the election, but it is unlikely to upset the overall balance of power, as Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from Beirut. About 580 candidates, including 86 women, were finally qualified for the race.

Eighty-six women ran for office - a record number.

Security around polling stations was heavy from early in the day and a Reuters reporter saw a column of armoured vehicles and other troop carriers driving slowly into the capital.

The vote is expected to be a test for the country's Western-backed prime minister, Saad Hariri, and his Iran-backed opponent, Hezbollah, which is looking to tighten its grip and expand its presence in the 128-seat parliament - likely at Hariri's expense.

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In the recent years, the Lebanese public has been voicing discontent over the declining public services, as illustrated by constant water and power cuts as well as corruption, and the rising number of Syrian refugees in the country. At polling stations across Beirut, the mood was upbeat throughout the morning as families turned out with their children and loyalists blared music from loudspeakers.

A new election law agreed on previous year has opened cracks through which rivals within the community could potentially challenge Hezbollah, and political newcomers and independents could try to break through the monopoly long enjoyed by the political dynasties.

"We love the resistance", stated Amira Sidani, an 85-year-old lady, after casting her poll.

Rival blocs in parliament could not agree on a new president between 2014-16 and repeatedly made a decision to delay elections, partly because of disagreement over moving from a winner-takes-all system to a proportional one.

"I'm optimistic about the future".

Lebanese analysts hailed the calm and orderly manner in which the voting was conducted on Sunday.

The current Lebanese parliament contains more than 20 different political parties.

Independent candidates running against the political establishment won two seats in Beirut.

The latest's figures marked a drop from the 54 percent of voters who took part in the country's last parliamentary elections which was held in 2009. "Today I will choose new faces", he said. "Lebanon has a lot of issues but I love this country".

To ensure the fairness of the election and prevent voting fraud, Lebanon has invited the European Union (EU) and the USA -based National Democratic Institute to monitor the voting on Sunday.

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