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Elections in Lebanon: Polling stations open in high-profile parliamentary elections




The election is the first in Lebanon since a popular uprising in 2019 demanded the ouster of the ruling elite, blaming traditional parties for widespread corruption and mismanagement. Several new political groups emerged from the protest movement and are competing in Sunday’s race, coming face to face with the establishment parties.

Political observers see the election as highly competitive and unpredictable. Earlier this year, three-time Prime Minister Saad Hariri – the leader of the country’s largest Sunni Muslim parliamentary bloc – left politics, leaving the Sunni vote to win.

Hariri called on people in his constituencies to boycott the race. But voters in Beirut’s second constituency, one of Hariri’s main strongholds, turned out in relatively large numbers at polling stations, with many telling CNN they voted for “change.”

Long queues destroyed one of the polling stations in Beirut’s Tareek el Jdeedeh neighborhood, where voter turnout is usually one of the lowest in the country, on Sunday morning.

“The queues we once stood in were humiliating queues,” said Khaled Zaatari, referring to long queues at bakeries and gas stations during some of the most difficult days of last year’s economic crisis. “This queue is a queue of pride.”

A nearly three-year-old economic depression and the August 2020 port explosion, largely blamed on the country’s political elite, could also encourage Lebanese to vote for the new parties in large numbers.
Lebanese army vehicles cross a billboard depicting candidates for Sunday (May 14th) parliamentary elections in Beirut, Lebanon.
Lebanon’s financial crisis has caused poverty rates to rise to over 75%, its currency to fall freely and its infrastructure to collapse rapidly. of United Nations and the World Bank have blamed the country’s leaders for worsening the economic depression.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah political armed group has also emerged as a hot topic in the Lebanese elections. Some political groups have vowed to try to disarm the Shiite party – which they believe has dominated the political sphere – even though it still enjoys widespread support among its voters.

Hezbollah election rallies – where group leader Hassan Nasrallah urged people to vote in groups – drew thousands of supporters this week.

A Hezbollah-backed coalition, which includes other Shiite as well as Christian allies, has the majority of seats in the current parliament.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati casts his ballot in the parliamentary elections at a polling station in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on May 15th.

The small eastern Mediterranean country has had a power-sharing narrative system since its founding a century ago. Parliament is divided equally between Muslims and Christians, with the presidency reserved for a Sunni Muslim, the presidency for a Maronite Christian, and the speaker of parliament for a Shiite Muslim.




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