TYRE/ZAHRANI: Political chants and anthems echoed as far as a mile away from the coastal city of Tyre, and became louder as a bus packed with voters hailing from South Lebanon’s second district made its way into town.
Banner, flags, and posters in honour of Speaker Nabih Berri spanned the seaside stretch across the southern outskirts of Sidon, reaching all the way to the Amal Movement leader’s hometown of Tyre. “I’ve taken three buses to get into Tyre to cast my ballot in favour of Speaker Berri,” Nassif Osseiran, an 80-year-old third generation farmer, told Annahar.
Many who stepped off the southbound buses into the blistering sun of Election Day echoed the elderly farmer’s conviction. “Berri has always been good to his people, and will always put our intentions at the forefront of his agenda,” Rana Ismael, a 35-year-old veiled woman who was boarding the bus with her two young sons, told Annahar.
South Lebanon’s second district has been considered by many to be less of a heated electoral battle than others, with only two electoral lists competing for the seven seats the area has to offer.
According to sources within polling stations in Tyre, the electoral activity and turnout of the district was high in the early hours of the morning but slowed down as voting reached midday; with most people casting their ballots earlier.
"The turnout in the morning was unbelievable, locals in Tyre flocked in high numbers to the stations as early as 6 a.m. to practice their right to vote," Ali Mehdi, a delegate working with the Amal Movement, told Annahar.
Numerous loud-speakers were lashed onto vans and cars alike to form moving sound waves to blast Amal Movement and Hezbollah anthems within the streets of Tyre since the beginning of the electoral day.
"It's such a refreshing sight to see people offer their loyalty and trust to people who have always kept this city safe," Mohammad Osseiran, another delegate of the Amal Movement, told Annahar outside a polling station in Tyre.
Posters bearing quotes and memorable sayings from Imam Moussa Al-Sadr and Nabih Berri were spread through the streets of both Tyre and Zahrani, with children also handing out flyers to passing citizens.
"We are so happy that we are finally able to vote and express our opinion about who should govern the country," Ali Rahhal, a 22-year-old first-time voter told Annahar.
"We're delighted that our children have recently come of age to vote and are now actively taking part in their national right to cast a ballot," Ahmad Rahhal, his father, told Annahar while leading his family to the car to go back home.
Streets were festooned with candidates’ posters and Hezbollah’s signature yellow flags alongside the Amal Movement’s signature green.
Outside polling stations, delegates from both parties displayed a replica of the voting ballot on a big board and explained to voters which among the colour-coded lists are theirs, and how to vote for it.
They wore yellow shirts with the slogan “We protect and build” written on them, while Amal Movement delegates wore green shirts and scarves with the faces of both Berri and Sadr printed on both sides.
Thousands of army and police forces were deployed near polling stations and on major intersections across entrances of South Lebanon’s second electoral district to ensure security from all fronts.
The town of Zahrani almost mirrored the scene of Tyre, with the same slogans, buses, and speakers dispersed within the city’s tight corridors.
One could even guess the winners of the election just by looking onward toward the obvious showcased colours of green or yellow.
“Although this district isn’t considered as contested as others, the peaceful and joyful vibe this democratic process has given the locals is something wonderful to witness,” Hussein Darwish, a 55-year-old mini market owner who also voted in the early hours of the morning, told Annahar.
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