Lebanon is holding its parliamentary elections on Sunday.
Voters will be able to cast their ballots in a general election for the first time since the October protests of 2019, known as the “thawra,” which led to the resignation of Saad Hariri as prime minister.
His replacement, Hassan Diab, was also forced to resign after an explosion at Beirut port killed at least 190 people in August 2020.
The investigation into the blast is still continuing and has become the focus of many politicised clashes.
The country’s political crisis has been exacerbated by its worst economic downturn since independence.
Since 2019, the Lebanese pound has dropped in value by more than 90 per cent against the dollar on the black market, while the state has failed to provide essential services such as electricity.
These dire circumstances have left about three quarters of the population in poverty and pushed others to embark on dangerous boat crossings to Europe.
Despite the hopes of some activists and widespread discontent, experts have predicted that the election is unlikely to disrupt the status quo in a big way.
More than 100,000 Lebanese citizens living overseas have already voted after casting their ballots last weekend.
Amal leader says election is ‘most dangerous’ since civil war
Sunday’s parliamentary election is the “most dangerous” since Lebanon’s civil war, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told voters from southern areas who visited his Beirut residence.
Mr Berri, the leader of the Amal movement who has held the Speaker’s post since 1992, received delegations from Qana, Sreefa, Kfarhatta, Kfarmelki, Kfardounin, Mafadoun and Upper Nabatieh on Friday, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported.
The “May 15 parliamentary election is the most dangerous in Lebanon’s contemporary history, and also the most important since the Taif accord” that ended the 1975-1990 civil war, NNA quoted Mr Beri as saying.
He called on voters, especially in the south where Amal has its stronghold, to turn the election into a referendum on “the national constants, especially the principles of unity and national coexistence”.
First-time voter motivated by opportunity for change
Lebanese interior designer Lama Ramadan, 33, says she will take part in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections for the first time on Sunday because she sees an opportunity for change in the country.
The election, which comes as the country grapples with a range of competing crises, is the first in which she has seen credible candidates, Ms Ramadan told The National.
“It’s my first time as a voter because I didn’t believe that there was a credible candidate before that. And honestly, I know some of the individuals that are running and I believe that they are honest individuals who want to bring change, who want to bring accountability,” she said.
“And I think that it’s our time now to prove a point that we want to make a change, that we want to improve this country and we want to work together as a whole team.”
Expatriate final turnout released
The final turnout among overseas voters was 63.05%, according to the National News Agency.
142,041 votes were cast out of a total of 225,277 registered voters.
Experts predict little change to status quo despite discontent
Lebanon’s elections won’t yield a seismic shift despite widespread discontent, experts told AFP this week.
Given Lebanon’s sectarian-based politics, it will likely “reproduce the political class and give it internal and international legitimacy”, said Rima Majed of the American University of Beirut.
“Maybe candidates from the opposition will clinch some seats, but I don’t think that there will be a change in the political scene,” said Majed, an expert in sectarianism and social movements.
Beirut voter Issam Ayyad, 70, put it more simply: “We will not be able to change.”
The country’s political system distributes power among its religious communities, entrenching a ruling elite that has treated politics as a family business.
By convention, the Lebanese president is a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament a Shiite.
In the current parliament, the Shiite Hezbollah party and its allies, including the Christian Free Patriotic Movement, command a majority.
The system has held back the emergence of non-sectarian political parties and civil society representatives.
Surge in Lebanese diaspora registering to vote ‘could have key influence on election’
Jamie Prentis reports:
The number of Lebanese people abroad registered to vote in Lebanon’s elections has tripled since 2018, the last time the country went to the polls.
The sharp rise has in part been attributed to efforts by civil society groups to encourage the diaspora to vote, said researchers from The Policy Initiatives in collaboration with the Arab Reform Initiative.
More than 240,000 people registered in their country of residence outside of Lebanon. In Asia alone, the figure rose nearly five-fold — from 12,610 in 2018 to 56,610 in 2022. In Europe, the continent where the most registered voters are based, the number increased from 24,113 to 69,140.
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