Lebanese expats living in the Mideast vote today in the country’s general election

Today more than 30,000 Lebanese expatriates vote in Mideast countries, casting their ballots at Lebanese diplomatic missions. On Sunday, another 195,000 will vote elsewhere in the world, like in the United States and Australia. The country’s never-ending political and economic crises and the 2020 Port of Beirut explosion dominated the campaign.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – This morning thousands of Lebanese began to vote in the first stage of a process that will on 15 May. For analysts and experts, the poll is a “crucial” test for the country’s future.

About 31,000 Lebanese expats can vote today in 10 Mideast countries. On Sunday, another 195,000 can do the same elsewhere in the world, most notably in the United States, Canada, Australia, Russia, the European Union and African nations. For the latter, this is an absolute first since they were excluded from the vote in the past.

In Lebanon itself, voters will be able to cast their ballot on 15 May to pick 128 new members of Parliament, the first election since the country’s economy started a downward spiral in October 2019 triggering nationwide mass protests and unrest.

The country’s politicians and government institutions stand accused of decades of corruption and mismanagement.

This is also the first election since the Port of Beirut was a hit by a massive explosion on 4 August 2020, which killed over 200 people and devastated large sections of the capital.

Many of the Lebanese voting abroad today and next Sunday left the country in the past two years because of its catastrophic state.

Many activists and members of the opposition are running to remove from office traditional parties and leaders who have been in power for ages.

However, anti-establishment groups are divided and struggling to come up with a united approach to trigger change from a position of strength.

Today’s 30,929 registered voters live in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Oman and Egypt, with voting taking place in Lebanon’s diplomatic missions.

In Lebanon, general elections are held every four years. The last time was in 2018 and saw Hezbollah and its allies win a majority.

One of the country’s most prominent politicians, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, announced his retirement from politics and so will not be running, which could help Hezbollah's Sunni allies, and give a boost to the Shia-dominated party.

One of the first tasks the new parliament will have to tackle is elect a new president to succeed Michel Aoun.

Under the constitution, the seats in Lebanon’s parliament are equally divided between Christians and Muslims. The president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim.

At present, 70 per cent of Lebanon’s six million people live in conditions of poverty. The country also hosts millions of Syrian refugees.

According to the World Bank, the country is experiencing one of the world’s worst crises since 1850.