6 Jun 2009

Australians flown-in to vote in Lebanon poll

1:18 pm on 6 June 2009

Hundreds of Lebanese Australians have begun arriving in Beirut to vote in a national election on Sunday.

The ABC reports many were offered free air tickets by the two main political groups.

Both sides have been accused of vote-buying, including buying tickets for thousands of overseas Lebanese to fly to Beirut to swing the vote.

The deadline for these voters to register was last month. However, election officials in Beirut have reportedly breached the rules to allow 200 Australian Lebanese to register after the cut-off date.

Friday was the last day of campaigning before Sunday's election. Hizbollah and its allies hope to reverse an anti-Syrian coalition's majority. Analysts expect a very tight race.

Lebanon has witnessed a period of calm since political and Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian tensions brought Lebanon to the brink of civil war last year.

More than 100 people were killed in sectarian fighting before an agreement led to the election of President Michel Suleiman and the formation of a national unity government.

Around 200 international observers will monitor the vote. Security forces will deploy 50,000 men to maintain security.