Lebanese abroad cast votes in parliamentary election

2. Lebanon
A Lebanese woman votes at a polling station at the Lebanese embassy in Baghdad during parliamentary elections on May 6, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
BEIRUT — Lebanese expatriates on Friday voted in parliamentary polls, kickstarting a critical election that comes amid an unprecedented financial crisis that has spurred a mass population exodus. اضافة اعلان

While opposition figures have pinned their hopes on the diaspora, experts said the elections were expected to uphold the status quo, despite years of economic meltdown.

Expatriates in nine Arab countries and in Iran cast their votes on Friday, with Syria and Tehran seeing the highest turnout rates, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Abdallah Bou Habib.

Bou Habib said nearly 60 percent of the 30,930 voters registered overseas had cast a ballot, a jump from 56 percent in 2018.

The foreign minister had expressed hope for 70 percent participation earlier Friday but the final count announced after ballots closed was estimated at 18,225 votes.

Expatriates in 48 other countries will vote on Sunday.

On Saturday morning, two boxes carrying expat votes arrived at the Beirut airport from Tehran, escorted by Lebanon's envoy to the Islamic Republic, the official National News Agency reported.

All other ballots will be delivered to Lebanon by logistics giant DHL, with the exception of those from neighboring Syria which will be handed over across the border, Bou Habib said.

'Vote in large numbers'

It is the second time in Lebanon's history that citizens residing abroad are able to vote for their 128 representatives, in elections set to be held at home on May 15.

The vote is the first since mass protests erupted in late 2019 against the country's entrenched ruling elite, widely blamed for the economic collapse.

Bou Habib had said that Lebanese based abroad would be able to vote in more than 205 polling stations worldwide.

The number of Lebanese who have registered to vote abroad has climbed from the roughly 92,000 in 2018 elections — though only 50,000 of them voted at the time.

But voter registration, while on the rise, remains relatively low among the millions of Lebanese who live abroad, and their descendants.

The economic crisis has pushed middle-class Lebanese, including families, fresh graduates, doctors and nurses to emigrate in search of a better future.

While opposition groups hope the diaspora will vote for change, only 6 percent of overseas voters picked independents in 2018, according to a recent report by the Paris-based Arab Reform Initiative.

Candidates from the traditional parties have sent messages to many expatriates in recent weeks to appeal for their vote.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for voters registered abroad "not to be complacent and to vote in large numbers".

Although many Lebanese hope they can vote traditional parties out, experts said this was unlikely as opposition candidates lacked unity, funds and experience.

In January, former prime minister Saad Hariri said he would quit politics and that his party would boycott the polls — leaving his Sunni community leaderless ahead of the elections.

Less prominent Sunni figures, including some politicians from his own party running as independents, are looking to reclaim Hariri's influence and snatch a seat in parliament.

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