OPPOSITION TAKES LEAD IN LEBANON VOTE
BEIRUT — Pro-government candidates appeared yesterday to have suffered a crushing defeat in Lebanon's first general elections in 20 years in favor of the opposition, including the Iranian-backed Hizbullah.
This prompted Parliament Speaker Hussein Husseini, a Shiite Muslim candidate, to demand a cancellation of the elections in east Lebanon's Syrian-policed Bekaa Valley.
Mr. Husseini accused the opposition in his statement yesterday of "forging the elections and proceeding with the forgery even during poll counting operations."
Unofficial results showed that Husseini's 10-man list was trounced by Hizbullah's fundamentalist candidates who harvested at least double of Husseini's votes.
Roy Hrawi, son of Maronite Catholic President Elias Hrawi, also lost in the Bekaa town of Zahleh against his cousin, Khalil Hrawi, an anti-government candidate.
The independent newspaper An-Nahar said that after reports of the defeat reached Beirut before dawn, Prime Minister Rashid Solh telephoned Bekaa governor Salim Jadoun and instructed him to "stop the ballot counting operation."
Lebanese and Syrian troops in tanks ringed city hall in the valley's ancient town of Baalbek before dawn where the poll counting operation was under way in an apparent effort to prevent a clash between followers of the rival candidates.
Husseini, in a statement released early in the day, asked President Hrawi to summon an extraordinary government session yesterday to "cancel the elections."
Muslim, Christian, and leftist radio stations said that initial results of the poll counting in north Lebanon showed that pro-government candidates failed to score a 100 percent sweep as they had anticipated.
The elections Sunday were the first phase of a three-stage operation called by President Hrawi's government to elect a 128-seat one-chamber house for the first time in 20 years. Elections in Beirut and the central mountains were scheduled for Aug. 30 and in south Lebanon for Sept. 6.
The Syrians, who maintain 40,000 troops in most of Lebanon under a 1976 peace-keeping mandate from the Arab League, have said they would withdraw only after the elections.