KFAR MATTA, Lebanon (AFP) – Fifteen years after the end of Lebanon’s civil war, residents of Kfar Matta — the scene of bloody sectarian massacres — are to vote on Sunday for tickets grouping long-time Druze and Christian foes.

“The alliance between Christian and Druze candidates is a good thing and a first step towards reconciliation,” said Shaheen Ghareeb, a Druze resident of this mountain village outside Beirut.

Ghareeb said he would cast his ballot in the third round of Lebanon’s parliamentary elections Sunday for a list headed by Druze chief Walid Jumblatt, who has forged an unlikely alliance with jailed Christian warlord Samir Geagea’s Lebanese Forces despite their bloody history.

Geagea’s militia slaughtered between 100 and 270 Druze civilians in Kfar Matta as clashes between the rival forces swept the region in 1983.

A year later, when Jumblatt and his Shiite allies moved in, Christians fled and their homes were taken over by Druze, who are members of a breakaway sect of Islam.

Despite the joint lists in Kfar Matta, residents of the village still bear the scars of the events of the war and relations remain tense between Druze and Christian communities in other parts of Lebanon.

Michel Aoun for example, the retired Christian general who returned to Lebanon last month after 15 years in exile, is at loggerheads with Jumblatt and has instead formed an alliance with pro-Syrian Druze and independent Christian and Muslim figures.

Aoun’s coalition has dealt a blow to Lebanon’s cross-sectarian anti-Syrian opposition front which came together after the February assassination of former prime minister and billionaire tycoon Rafiq Hariri on February 14.

“We have no choice but to unite with our former enemies, things have changed since February 14 but there cannot be a reconciliation on the ground unless we go back,” said Elias Nasser, a 50-year-old Christian who took refuge in Beirut during the war.

Nasser said he planned to shun the election because he felt cheated that although he could vote in the village, he still hadn’t have his house back.

“How come we can’t go home after all these years? I can’t accept to vote yards away from my home and yet not get it back,” he said.

And he predicted that most Christians who were not able to return to their villages would also boycott the polls being held Sunday in Mount Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley of eastern Lebanon.

It is the the third round of the four-stage legislative polls being held in Lebanon for the first time in three decades free of Syria’s grip.

On Sunday, voters will choose MPs for 35 seats in the 128-member parliament where parity is guaranteed between Christians and Muslims, including Druze.

Voters cast their ballots in boxes marked with their respective religious affiliations and many villagers said the number of Christian and Druze ballots for candidates of the other religion would be a tell-all sign of true reconciliation.

Another Druze admitted that reconciliation still had a long way to go, including the much-delayed return of the village’s Christian population.

“In many villages, Christians were able to return thanks to (government) compensation offered to the Druze who took over their houses after ours were destroyed,” said Nazih Khaddaj, pointing to ruins that still line the village’s winding streets.

Abu Elie, 60, a Christian who also hails from Kfar Matta, was also pessimistic about a quick resolution despite the political alliances.

“There was a massacre in Kfar Matta, that’s why reconciliation is all the more complex. The Druze are asking for compensation and blood money,” he said.

But in Ain Ksur, a mixed village overlooking Mount Lebanon, Christian residents were upbeat about the polls.

“I came back in 1999 and I believe we can live together. I hope the elections help bring the country together,” said Habuba Nasser, a 54-year-old woman.

Emile Nasser, 64, visiting from Cleveland, Ohio, said he intended to vote.

“Horrible things have happened but we must go forward. We just hope that politicians will not merely act in their personal interest and that these alliances do mean something indeed.”