Voting begins in Lebanon’s high-stakes parliamentary elections

The elections are the first in Lebanon since the 2019 uprising that demanded the overthrow of the ruling elite, and was blamed for it traditional parties to rampant corruption and mismanagement. Several new political groups have emerged from the protest movement and are competing in Sunday’s race, vying with established parties.

Political observers view the elections as highly competitive and unpredictable. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Saad Hariri – the leader of the country’s largest Sunni Muslim parliamentary bloc – quit politics, leaving the Sunni vote at hand.

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

Long queues crept from a polling station in Beirut’s Tariq al-Jadida neighborhood, where voter turnout is usually among the lowest in the country, on Sunday morning.

“The queues we were standing in were queues of humiliation,” Khaled al-Zaatari said, referring to the long queues at bakeries and petrol pumps during some of the toughest days of the economic crisis last year. “This queue is a queue of pride.”

Ralph Debbas, a New York-based consultant and delegate for a reform electoral slate, told CNN he “felt it was my civic duty to come to Lebanon to vote.” “We need a wave of change. We need a wave of respectable and responsible people in Parliament,” the 43-year-old added.

Nearly three years of economic depression and August 2020 port explosionwhich is largely blamed on the country’s political elite, may also encourage Lebanese to vote for new parties in droves.
Lebanese army vehicles pass a billboard depicting candidates for Parliament's elections on Sunday in Beirut, Lebanon, on May 14.
The financial crisis in Lebanon has caused poverty rates to rise to more than 75%, its currency to plummet, and infrastructure to rapidly deteriorate. The United nations The World Bank has blamed the country’s leaders for exacerbating the economic depression.

The Iranian-backed armed political group Hezbollah also emerged as a hot topic in the Lebanese elections. Several political groups have pledged to try to disarm the Shiite party – which they believe has dominated the political sphere – although it still enjoys broad support among its constituents.

Hezbollah’s election rallies – where the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, urged people to vote in droves – drew thousands of supporters this week.

The Hezbollah-backed coalition – which includes other Shiite and Christian allies – holds the majority of seats in the current parliament.

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

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