Beirut – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants announced that “the deadline for the registration of Lebanese not residing on Lebanese territory to vote in the upcoming 2022 parliamentary elections has ended at midnight on Saturday 20/11/2021 Beirut time, and consequently the process of voter registration has stopped in all continents on the website https: http://diasporavote.mfa.gov.lb, and in Lebanese diplomatic and consular missions abroad.
The ministry pointed out that “the total number of registered voters exceeded all expectations and reached 244,442 after the registration closed, compared to 92,810 in the 2018 elections,” stressing that “this heavy turnout occurred as a result of expatriates’ attachment to their motherland, and the importance of their participation in these elections.”
Beirut Before mass protests against Lebanon’s ruling elite swept the country in October 2019, Yasmin Saad never thought she would be particularly invested in her home country’s politics.
But two years later, watching from France a number of compounding crises battering millions of Lebanese, the 22-year-old marketing student decided to register to vote in next year’s parliamentary election.
“I feel it’s a last chance – or a last hope,” Saad told Al Jazeera from Marseille. “What really, really pushed me to start voting was those days when everyone was protesting on the street – and we had protests and gatherings of our own in France.”
She is not alone. Nearly a quarter million Lebanese living abroad have met Saturday’s deadline and registered to cast ballots in the March 27 election – nearly 3 times the number of expats who signed up for the previous polls in 2018.
Millions of Lebanese have left the country over the past decades, taking their skills and talents abroad to seek better opportunities in the face of instability, entrenched corruption and financial mismanagement. Though there are no clear numbers, many estimates claim that more live abroad than within the tiny country itself, home to some 6.5 million people, including Lebanese and refugees.
Lebanese abroad were allowed to vote for the first time in 2018 under a new electoral law that also stipulated that six new seats would be added to the parliament in the 2022 election to represent the diaspora. However, independent political parties and many expats disagreed with the addition, arguing this was a way to isolate the diaspora from the local constituencies. Last month, MPs rejected adding those six seats, which means expats will vote in May for the existing 128 seats.
In October 2019, mass protests spread across Lebanon against a ruling elite of sectarian parties and private sector cronies that had had a foothold in the country for several decades. Lebanese in dozens of cities around the world held similar protests in solidarity with the youth-led demonstrations back home, adding their voice to the calls for an overhaul of Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system that has resulted in widespread nepotism.
Since then, the crisis has deepened even further, with Lebanon’s local currency losing over 90 percent of its value against the United States dollar. About three-quarters of the population live in poverty, relying heavily on charity and aid in the absence of viable social programmes.
Public anger against the ruling elite reached new heights in August 2020, when a massive explosion in Beirut’s port flattened several neighbourhoods in the capital, killing more than 200 people and wounding thousands. Lebanese abroad organised numerous charity drives to support local aid groups in order to help struggling families secure medicine, heating and rent.
The Lebanese are hoping the October 19 protesters will be able to field competent candidates that will be able to replace the corrupt Lebanese politicians. So far the number of independent candidates is very small . Many are hoping the vote by the expatriates will help energize and unite the October 19 protesters in order to field their best candidates . The majority of the Lebanese view the 2022 election as the last opportunity to change the corrupt Lebanese system of government
Ya Libnan / Al Jazeera.