U: NPR's Deborah Amos is in Beirut. Deborah, thanks very much for being with us.
DEBORAH AMOS: Thank you, Scott.
: And give us a sense of the atmosphere in this very fierce campaign.
AMOS: Scott, this vote is for 128 parliamentary seats. Here's a comparison to American politics that might be useful. You know, in the U.S. it's always said that politics, all politics are local?
AMOS: Here, all politics are sectarian. And what that means is Lebanese politics are organized along sectarian lines. The major blocs are Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims and Christians. So the voting is very predictable among the Sunnis and the Shiites. About a hundred seats in parliament are not in question, but there are 28 seats that are up for grabs.
: So who are the swing voters?
AMOS: So there are also just a few independent candidates - about eight - but you know, in this election small gains make a big difference.
: Okay. So I understand that certainly from the American perspective we see this election as being about the alignment of Lebanon. But I wonder how Lebanese voters see it, and what does that mean to the U.S.?
AMOS: Will the Obama administration deal with Lebanese cabinet ministers who are also members of Hezbollah and they're considered a terrorist group by the U.S.? But it also has to be said that no matter who wins a majority in parliament, Hezbollah's influence in the country is one the rise. It's the most influential party here, plus Hezbollah has a heavily-armed militia that's stronger than the army of the state.
: NPR's Deborah Amos speaking from Beirut, where she's covering Lebanon's parliamentary elections on Sunday. Deborah, thanks so much.
AMOS: Thank you, Scott.
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