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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Lebanese Regime Plans Changes

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- A Lebanese anti-Syrian alliance promised sweeping change on Monday after winning control of parliament in the first elections in three decades without Syrian troops in Lebanon.

An unofficial count for north Lebanon on Sunday night showed an alliance led by Saad Hariri sweeping all remaining 28 seats, while its rivals conceded they were heading for defeat.

The ballot, staggered by region over four weekends, is the first in three decades with no Syrian military presence after Damascus pulled its troops out in April.

"Final results show that we are ahead and show that the people have voted for change," said Hariri, who is the son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and is backing the opposition slate.

"It was not possible that after the martyrdom of Rafik Hariri, the withdrawal of Syria, that nothing would change."

The victory means the 128-seat assembly has an anti-Syrian majority for the first time since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Pro-Syrian Christian former minister Suleiman Franjieh conceded that he and his candidates were headed for defeat in the mainly Sunni Muslim north, though they did well in Christian areas.

"What we feared is happening. I think the north has been divided along sectarian lines," Franjieh told the LBC television station. "We have arrived at what we used to warn against."

Beirut newspapers, pointing to a new era after the elections, warned of a sharp rise in sectarianism. "Voting along sectarian lines opens the door for a delicate period in which no one knows how to overcome the sectarian tension that characterized the elections across Lebanon," the as-Safir daily said.

The anti-Syrian list faced an unlikely alliance of pro-Syrians and former general Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian returned from 14 years of exile.

Aoun's victory in the Christian heartland of Mount Lebanon in last week's round stunned the movement whose street protests following Hariri's assassination on Feb. 14 forced Syria to bow to global pressure and pull out of Lebanon.

Hariri's bloc has now won 72 seats, an absolute majority, but short of the two-thirds the anti-Syrian front had predicted.

Aoun and his allies have 21 seats, while a pro-Syrian Shiite Muslim alliance between Hezbollah and Amal have 35 seats.

Amal chief Nabih Berri, a close ally of Damascus who has served as speaker for the past 13 years, is favored to win re-election. Several Hariri allies have said they would not vote for Berri, whose alliance with Hezbollah swept the Shiite vote.

Parliament must also nominate a prime minister, a post reserved for a Sunni, to form a new government to replace that of Prime Minister Najib Mikati. Sunday's win makes the 35-year old Hariri a leading candidate for the post. He refused to speculate whether he would seek the job.

The vote in northern Lebanon was marred by allegations of vote-buying, intimidation and other irregularities.

Official final results were expected later on Monday, when European Union monitors observing the May 29 to June 19 election are also expected to issue a verdict.

Lawmakers will jostle for a say on divisive issues such as the fate of Syria's close ally President Emile Lahoud and international calls for Hezbollah guerrillas to disarm.