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Lebanon holds first vote since financial meltdown, blast

May 15, 2022

Voters have started casting their ballots in a crucial parliamentary election in the crisis-ridden Middle Eastern nation. The final results could punish Lebanon's political elite in a time of economic despair.

A voter casts their ballot in the parliamentary election at a polling station near the Lebanese coastal city of Byblos.
Millions of Lebanese are eligible to vote in the parliamentary electionImage: Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

Voting began in Lebanon on Sunday in the country's parliamentary election amid the fallout from multiple political and economic crises.

Polls opened across 15 electoral districts at 7 a.m. local time, following months of ambiguity over whether the voting to elect Lebanon's new parliament would go ahead.

Long queues at polling stations were being reported by early afternoon.

What do we know so far?

A total of 128 parliamentary seats will be filled following the results.

All of the traditional parties are running with their familiar leaders, including the Free Patriotic Movement, Amal, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party of the Druze.

After a campaign that was restrained by the country's all-consuming economic woes, 3.9 million Lebanese are eligible to vote.

The army was deployed across the nation to secure the election.

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Observers have warned that candidates would purchase votes through food packages and fuel vouchers issued to families impacted by the financial meltdown.

What is the broader significance of the election?

The crucial vote is seen as a last chance to punish the current batch of politicians, many of whom derive their power from a sectarian political system and spoils taken at the end of Lebanon's 15-year civil war in 1990.

Since the country's last election in 2018, Lebanon has witnessed a catastrophic economic collapse that the World Bank has blamed on the ruling class. The bank called it the worst economic crisis the world has seen since the mid-1880s.

There are shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine as well as frequent power cuts. Around three quarters of the population are believed to be experiencing poverty.

The election also comes two years after a massive blast at Beirut's port left more than 200 people dead, thousands injured and destroyed parts of the capital.

The explosion was widely blamed on negligence.

Experts are of the opinion that public anger could help reform-minded contenders clinch some seats, but expectations are low for a big overhaul in the sectarian system that is prejudiced in favor of established parties.

dvv/wd (AFP, AP, Reuters)