Lebanon takes to the polls amidst economic crisis
Welcome to The New Arab’s coverage of Lebanon's General Election 2022 held on May 15, 2022. Follow live updates, results, analyses, and opinion in our special hub here.
Lebanese voters headed to the polls on Sunday in the country's first election since its economic and political crisis began in the fall of 2019.
The streets of Lebanon's capital, Beirut, were choked with traffic as voters crowded voting stations. Throngs of people ringed the entrances, waving party flags and displaying their inked-blue fingers.
According to the Interior Ministry, over 15 per cent of Lebanon's population had voted by noon, with seven hours until polls close. The previous election in 2018 saw just over a 50 per cent turnout, with expectations that this year's election will exceed even that.
Anticipation for the election is high, as an explosion of independent candidates has defied Lebanon's traditional sectarian political landscape. Cries for change and a new path forward have emerged as the country has sunk deeper into an economic crisis which has thrust over two-thirds of the population into poverty.
Lebanon's government has been dominated by a handful of sectarian parties for decades, with elections seen as a means of dividing power between them, to the exclusion of independent candidates.
"I want new faces for my future. I want independents, not the parties that have been present," Noura, a 28-year old voter in the Karantina district of Beirut, told The New Arab.
"For the last thirty years, we've been in this same sh**hole, and we want to see change. We want a younger generation to come," Patricia, who works in the banking sector, said after voting in Achrafieh, Beirut.
The dozen or so voters The New Arab spoke with all said they wanted to see change in the country. Still, the majority said they had voted for the same parties they had voted for four years.
"The problem in this country is money and that everyone just voters for their sect. I voted for Tashnaq [an Armenian nationalist party] because they protect my interests," Hagop, a voter in Achrafieh told The New Arab.
One voter in Mar Elias, a mixed neighbourhood in Beirut, said that he voted for Hezbollah, as it is the only non-corrupt party in the country. "Hezbollah is the one that protected us from the Zionist enemy and is the one that continues to support us," Mohammed Naymi, a day-laborer, said.
If independent candidates managed to secure a sizable voting bloc in Lebanon's parliament, it would be a huge upset for the country's government, currently dominated by Hezbollah and its allies.
Consistent voting violations
Despite many of the polling stations functioning smoothly, election violations were continuously reported throughout the country.
The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE), a monitoring organisation, reported a variety of disruptions to the voting process.
Among the violations recorded by LADE were voting boxes being opened illegally, "chaos" in many locations, a shortage in voting materials in different polling stations and media being prevented from observing polling locations.
Videos of fights breaking out at polling stations throughout the country also circulated social media.
Lebanon holds its much-anticipated parliamentary elections. #الانتخابات_النيابية_2022 pic.twitter.com/E34M1z2NKA— Lara Bitar (@LaraJBitar) May 15, 2022
Disabled people were also prevented from voting with dignity at various polling locations, Sylvana Lakkis, the president of the Lebanese Union for People with Physical Disabilities and Chairwoman of the Arab Forum for the Rights of People with Disabilities, told The New Arab.
According to Lakkis, the accommodations to allow disabled voters to vote were not put in place in at least three polling locations after security forces refused to implement them. This forced people with disabilities to be carried by volunteers up stairs to cast their vote.
The Interior Ministry had promised the Union to put in place inclusive measures for disabled people, Lakkis said, as the previous two elections had been marred with violations of disabled peoples' rights.
Human rights activists also protested the decision by some municipalities in the south of Lebanon to confine Syrian refugees to their houses during election day. Palestinians in the Ayn al-Halwa refugee camp were also forbidden from leaving the camp during polling hours on Sunday.