Lebanon: Hariri's party accused of 'buying' expat votes

Berlin, 4 June (AKI) - Supporters of Lebanon's Sunni pro-western Future Movement have been targeting the Lebanese expatriate community in Germany ahead of Saturday's elections, according to the German weekly, Stern. A report published in the magazine on Wednesday claimed that expatriates were being offered cash advances of between 500 and 1500 euros and flights to Lebanon to encourage them to vote.

The magazine claimed that Mohammed Hariri, the brother of the Future Movement leader, Saad Hariri, operates a travel agency in the German city of Nuremberg and is a key figure in the so-called 'vote-buying' scheme.

Stern said the initiative had so far cost hundreds of millions of dollars, not only in Germany but also in Canada, Australia, South America and West Africa where many Lebanese live.

According to Stern, Hariri's party is also issuing passports and identity cards for the children of German-based Lebanese nationals.

Lebanese law says dual citizens must be located in Lebanon to cast their ballots.

The German report came a few days after the state-owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation made a similar allegation, claiming that corporate sponsors were paying hundreds of supporters of the Future Movement in Calgary and other cities to vote in the 7 June elections.

The elections are expected to be one of the most closely fought in decades and will put the Shia, Hezbollah-led coalition, called the March 8 coalition, against the March 14 coalition headed by Saad Hariri (photo) of the Future Movement.

Saad is the son of slain prime minister Rafik Hariri who was assassinated in a massive car bomb attack in Beirut in February 2005.

However, CBC claimed that there were rumours in the Lebanese-Canadian community that the pro-Hezbollah side was also paying to fly supporters to Lebanon for the election.

Hezbollah, a paramilitary and political organisation is listed as a terrorist group by the Canadian, Israeli, United States and Dutch governments.


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