BEIRUT: The scene of pro-Bashar Assad voters crowding the polling station at their embassy in Yarze irked the March 14 coalition Wednesday, with its General Secretariat calling on the Lebanese government to expel Syrians who were not fleeing persecution.
“The provocations and performances of Syrians in support of the regime under the pretext of participating in the election are clear evidence that their security is not threatened, therefore, they are not refugees,” the secretariat said.
“We ask the government to work to immediately expel them [back] to their country,” it added.
Tens of thousands of Syrians flocked to the polling station, causing a huge traffic jam in nearby neighborhoods since early morning hours.
Enthusiastic voters showed their support for Assad by chanting slogans and waving his photos outside the embassy, infuriating Lebanese opponents of the Syrian regime.
Kataeb Party MP Nadim Gemayel went further, asking the government to dismiss Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim Ali.
“In response to what happened today ... we call for the expulsion of the Syrian envoy, similar to the decision taken in Jordan recently,” he said, referring to Amman’s decision this week to declare Syria’s ambassador as persona non grata.
“We also ask the Lebanese government to stop this charade that has harmed Lebanese people, who were trapped in their vehicles for hours, and paralyzed the country.”
Ali responded to March 14’s comments, saying they were a “miscalculation” and a “weak point.”
“The different political factions need to review their positions; the terrorism that’s striking all of Syria must not be a source of pride for anyone,” he told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV.
Lebanon is divided over the Syrian civil war, with the March 14 coalition backing the uprising and Hezbollah fighting alongside regime troops against the rebels.
The Baabda branch of the Kataeb Party released a strongly worded statement about the Syrian election in Lebanon which it said “brought back memories” of Syrian tutelage over the country which lasted from 1990 to 2005.
“Why weren’t there any precautionary measures taken given that the date of the election was scheduled last week,” the statement said.
“The citizens witnessed today the invasion of Lebanon’s streets reminiscent of the days of Syrian occupation,” it said. “The actions we witnessed cannot be tolerated and we warn of problems as a consequence of the unjustified tension-stirring behavior.”
Lebanese dealt with their issues by making jokes about the crowded streets, with people exchanging WhatsApp messages, urging “Lebanese refugees” to remain indoors to allow Syrians to vote.
“We ask Lebanese refugees in Lebanon to remain in their houses to prevent traffic jams because the Syrians are casting their ballots to elect a president and we don’t even have one,” one message read.
But Assad supporters in Lebanon had a different reaction, with former Security Chief Jamil al-Sayyed saying the election day indicated the opposition of Syrians to “the conspiracy against their country.”
“This spontaneous crowd also represented a direct referendum in favor of President Bashar Assad to once again lead Syria to safety in the face of terrorism,” Sayyed added.
“These people were not paid ... nor were they subject to terror but they are forced to live abroad in tragic circumstances,” he added, noting that Arab and Western countries sought to disrupt the election because they feared the results.
The hashtag #Syrians trended on Twitter with many reporters and Lebanese sharing photos of the crowded streets.
Some Lebanese were even envious of Syrians in their ability to select a president while lawmakers in Lebanon remain at a deadlock over the presidency.