There has been heavy violence in some parts of Lebanon in anticipation of the change of guard in the country, where Prime Minister Saad Hariri is set to be succeeded by a figure backed by Hizbollah, a Shia militant group.
Violence flared in the northern city of Tripoli, parts of which are Mr. Hariri's stronghold. Crowds gathered in a city square waving banners and holding aloft pictures of Mr. Hariri and his late father Rafik Hariri and torched a satellite truck belonging to Al Jazeera television. Analysts, however, say the protests are unlikely to change the complexion of the next government.
The Hizbollah-supported Al Manar television reported that the protesters specially targeted the media, local and international, and the Army which has been deployed. Amid gun-shots in Tripoli, the Army rescued the media personnel who, at one time, had been besieged by the protesters.
The former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, was killed in a truck bombing in Beirut in 2005. The Hizbollah suspects a special international investigative tribunal, which it alleges favours the United State and Israel, will hold the group responsible for the assassination.
Consequently, Hizbollah pulled out from the Saad Hariri-led national unity government, causing it to collapse. Now, with the support of Druze leader Walid Jumblat who was earlier in the Hariri camp, Hizbollah-backed candidate Najib Mikati has 68 votes to Mr. Hariri's 60.
There was also sporadic violence in parts of Beirut and on the road linking the Lebanese capital to Sidon.
During protests, Hizbollah's, links with Iran, which has been the group's key supporter came in for harsh criticism. Some of the demonstrators said they rejected the so called “Persian tutelage” over Lebanon. Iran's arch-rival, the United States, also said that Hizbollah's high profile in the next government could affect the passage of Washington's aid to Lebanon.
However, later in a televised address, Mr. Hariri called for calm, and exhorted his supporters to pursue the democratic path. “You are today an angry people, but you are a responsible people. You are responsible for the security of Lebanon and the security of life amongst Lebanese people.”
On his part, Mr. Mikati, who is a Sunni businessman, pledged he would work for national unity. “I am a moderate guy, I am a moderate politician, and I am always at equal distance from everybody. My objective is the interest of Lebanon and the interest of the nation, the international security of Lebanon and especially to have good relationship with the international community.” Under Lebanon's Constitution, the country's President has to be a Christian; the Prime Minister, a Sunni; and the Speaker of Parliament has to be a Shia.