As the polls opened on Sunday, more than 3.6 million Lebanese eligible voters are to elect the 128 parliament members of Lebanon in the country’s first legislature election since 2009. 583 candidates were on the ballot papers for the 128-strong parliament of Lebanon, which is divided equally between Muslims and Christians.
The candidates are spread across 77 lists in 15 districts, which have 27 subdistricts. For Lebanese nationals living abroad, some polls opened on April 27. Already, almost 66 percent of 12,615 registered voters living in six Arab countries have cast their ballots, marking a first in Lebanese history, according to state-run National News Agency (NNA).
Overseas voting in the six countries (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman) was followed on April 29 by voting in 33 countries in the Americas, Europe, Australia and Africa. Official figures put the total number of registered Lebanese expatriate voters at 82,965 worldwide.
DW reports that the vote is regarded as a test of a new electoral law, approved by the parliament in June 2017. The law reduced Lebanon’s number of electoral districts and introduced a system of proportional representation.
But despite the reforms, there is little hope for political newcomers to break through against Lebanon’s entrenched ruling elites. Observers predict that the majority of lawmakers affiliated with powerful political factions will return to their places in the assembly.
Halim Shebaya, a Beirut-based political analyst and multi-disciplinary researcher and a media commentator on Arab and Middle Eastern current affairs described these elections as an attempt by the government to portray normalcy and a properly functioning democracy, whereas the dire situation in the country requires a major overhaul and a comprehensive project of reform and anti-corruption measures. Legal Agenda, a Lebanese specialised legal NGO/publication, summed it up neatly: the elections are “a wedding on the ruins of democracy” – in reference to a Ministry of Interior and Municipalities ad dubbing the elections as “the wedding of democracy”. The publication concluded that “we can predict that the elections will not bring us the best candidate but rather the most sectarian, powerful and wealthy candidate – bringing about a new ‘wedding’ celebrating all that is wrong in a democracy: a wedding on democracy’s ruins.”