The Cradle
Participation down as polls close across Lebanon
Citizens took to the polls for the first time since the start of what the World Bank describes as the world's worst economic crisis in 150 years
By News Desk - May 15 2022

(Photo credit: Reuters)

Polls have closed across Lebanon as turnout for parliamentary elections dropped from the last elections in 2018, when nearly 50 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots.

According to the Interior Ministry, as of 6:30pm local time, only 37.5 percent of voters had taken part in the electoral process. Polling places closed at 7pm.

According to these figures, participation was highest in the Christian majority district of Jbeil, with 50 percent, and the Shia region of Bekaa, with 45 percent.

Other districts with high participation were Baabda and Chouf with 41 percent, Metn with 40 percent, Hasbaya with 38 percent, and Tyre with 37 percent.

In the capital Beirut, which is divided into two electoral sub-districts, turnout reached 27 percent in the eastern areas and 31 percent in the western side.

These elections are the first in Lebanon since the economic collapse of 2019 and the Beirut Port blast of 2020.

The results of the vote will be officially announced on 16 May.

Throughout the day, a number of violent incidents were reported involving supporters of the Lebanese Forces (LF) party, a Christian majority party that has deep ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

In the town of Chekka, a fistfight erupted between LF and Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) supporters. According to local reports, three people were hospitalized as a result of the fighting.

Across the Bekaa valley, clashes were also reported between the LF and supporters of the Hezbollah resistance movement. Both sides traded accusations of incitement.

Lebanon’s semi-democracy has a complex confessional power-sharing system, implemented by France during its occupation of the country and which divides parliament’s 128 seats into two groups – 64 Muslims and 64 Christians.

Since the last elections in 2018, the Lebanese people have endured a freeze on their bank deposits and life savings, the collapse of the Lebanese lira, and hyperinflation.

The economic situation has also exacerbated a crippling energy crisis, with blackouts that can last for up to 23 hours a day.

Just days ahead of the election, the UN accused Lebanon’s political elite of human rights violations for creating the conditions for an acute economic crisis that has plunged over 80 percent of the population below the poverty line.

“The Lebanese State, including its Central Bank, is responsible for human rights violations, including the unnecessary immiseration of the population, that have resulted from this man-made crisis,” the UN report, released on 11 May, reads.

Over the past three years, the country has also been facing a migrant crisis, with thousands attempting to escape the economic meltdown.

Last month, Lebanon’s General Directorate of Public Security announced it had stopped taking appointments for passport renewals, as requests had increased tenfold since 2020.

Days before, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) were accused of deliberately sinking a migrant skiff with over 80 people onboard, including women and children.