Lebanon PM Miktati hopes elections will start 'economic recovery' as thousands of expats vote

Lebanon PM Miktati hopes elections will start 'economic recovery' as thousands of expats vote
Lebanon's prime minister said he hoped the parliamentary elections, which kicked off on Friday abroad, will be the start of economic recovery for the country
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Nearly 130,000 Lebanese expatriates voted across the world in the first round of elections [Getty]

Lebanon Prime Minister Najib Mikati hoped that the parliamentary election this month would mark the beginning of the country's economic recovery following its worst-ever financial crisis.

The election - scheduled for 15 May - kicked off this weekend with voting for expatriates with a huge turnout in cities such as Dubai, Paris and New York.

Mikati, who has been severely criticised for his handling of Lebanon's economy, said he hopes the election will usher in a new era for the country.

"God willing, through the change that the Lebanese seek at the polls, the process of economic recovery will begin, and the new parliament will be good for Lebanon," Mikati said Sunday from the foreign ministry's election monitoring room, as Lebanese expatriates in 48 countries voted.

Mikati hoped that a new speaker of the house would be elected and a new cabinet formed soon after the elections in order to carry out the reforms he believes are necessary to lift the country out of its economic crisis that has thrown millions into poverty.

Beirut is in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bail-out.

Three-time billionaire Prime Minister Mikati is not running in the elections this year but is supporting candidates in his hometown of Tripoli, the constituency witnessing the largest number of candidate lists running against each other. 

Nearly 130,000 Lebanese cast their ballots on Friday and Sunday in the first round of elections, reaching a total 60 percent voter turnout, according to Hadi Hachem, head of emigrant affairs at the foreign ministry.

On Friday, polling stations opened in 10 Muslim-majority countries, while Sunday saw large crowds line up to vote in Australia, the UAE, European Union member states, African countries, Canada, the US, and Latin America.

France had the largest number of voters registered with around 28,000, where the voter turnout surpassed 60 percent.

In the UAE, where 25,000 people registered to vote, the turnout surpassed 70 percent.

The large turnout - about three times more than in 2018 - has given hope to non-sectarian opposition groups in Lebanon that these numbers could help boost their chances of winning seats in the parliament, usually occupied by 'establishment parties'.

This year's elections are the first since nationwide protests began in October 2019. They also come amid Lebanon’s unprecedented economic meltdown - blamed on decades of rampant corruption and mismanagement - and since the massive 4 August blast at the Beirut Port.