Thousands vote in first Lebanese elections after Arab Spring

Thousands vote in first Lebanese elections after Arab Spring
2 min read
08 May, 2016
Lebanon's municipal elections began on Sunday, as a 24-candidate list of independents in Beirut take on traditional politicians in a bid to break the capital's traditionally dominant politicians.
Lebanese actress and film director Nadine Labaki casts her vote on Sunday [AFP]

The Lebanese headed to the polls for the first time in six years on Sunday for municipal elections, including in Beirut, where a new grassroots campaign is taking on entrenched parties.

Polling stations opened at 6am in Beirut and two other provinces in the Bekaa region, in the first stage of a vote to include five other provinces by the end of May.

But voter turnout was 9.3 percent in Beirut by noon, reported the Lebanese daily The Daily Star.

An unlikely alliance of citizens in the capital city is for the first time taking on traditional politicians like former prime minister Saad Hariri, whose Future Movement usually dominates elections in the capital.

The 24-candidate list of independents dubbed "Beirut is my city" [Beirut Madinati] is equally split between men and women, and Muslims and Christians.

"This campaign shows that change can happen, if not today then maybe tomorrow," an activist told The New Arab.

The list includes teachers, fishermen and artists such as famed actress and film director Nadine Labaki.

The campaign was founded in 2015 shortly after a trash crisis in the summer sparked protests demanding a solution to growing piles of waste and an overhaul of paralysed government institutions.

Since the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990, lists in the municipal polls every six years have traditionally been pulled together by a handful of parties often formed along sectarian lines and led by former warlords.

"Beirut is my city" faces the formidable challenge of breaking through that entrenched political class in a bid to win all 24 seats in the Lebanese capital's municipal council.

Meanwhile, the ballot casting process became subject of social media commentary when pictures emerged of former prime minister Saad Hariri placing his ballot paper in the wrong box and voiding his vote.

It is the first election of any kind in Lebanon since the last municipal polls in 2010, in a country that has not had a president for the past two years nor held legislative elections since 2009.

Agencies contributed to this report.