BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati has urged expats to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections to ensure their voices are heard and they can achieve the changes they want.
Mikati’s call came as he inaugurated the operations room to manage and monitor parliamentary elections overseas.
“It’s a key moment in this round of the election,” he said.
The legislative elections, which will be held on May 6 and 8 abroad, and on May 15 in the country, are the first since the start of the economic collapse at the end of 2019.
Authorities allowed 225,114 Lebanese expatriates to vote after reviewing 244,442 registered voters overseas. They will vote in 205 polling stations in 59 countries around the world, except in Ukraine.
Foreign voters make up a significant proportion of Lebanon’s 3,967,507 total voters.
Political movements seeking change in the crisis-hit country rely heavily on the expat vote to make a difference.
The government, mired in a political stalemate, has taken limited action to deal with the national collapse, leaving the Lebanese to fight the crisis on their own while plunging into poverty, without electricity or medicine.
The Foreign Ministry described the electoral arrangements as “the biggest logistical operation in Lebanon’s modern history”.
A total of 103 lists made up of 1,044 candidates are in the running for the elections, some of which withdrew after the deadline.
Political groups seeking radical change and some opposition parties believe that the majority of expatriate voters do not like the ruling authority and are victims of its corruption, and that their presence abroad puts them immune to the pressures faced by internal voters and the pressure to re-elect the same faces.
These groups are hoping for a strong turnout from Lebanese who left after the Beirut port explosion in 2020 and popular protests in 2019.
Since Thursday, all candidates and political parties are no longer allowed to address voters and the media can no longer interview them until the polls close on Sunday evening.
The Election Monitoring Commission prohibits election teams from sharing their estimates of the number of votes.
Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib said that Lebanon “has made every possible effort, within the limits of our modest capacities, to facilitate the voting process and set up as many polling stations as possible, such as the laws governing the countries in which the Lebanese abroad reside allow it”. .”
He added: “We insist on organizing the overseas voting process in a professional manner while avoiding political agendas.”
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said the government is committed to its ministerial declaration and will indeed organize the elections.
He added: “To those who have taken to the streets to demand an election, I say this is your chance to speak your mind.”
He underlined: “Not voting does not serve anyone, especially not the country”.
Mawlawi added that all logistical and security preparations had been secured.
“Subsidies to military forces participating in the elections and compensation to employees, professors and judges who will participate in the elections will be sufficient and appropriate,” he added.
He said: ‘The elections will go through successfully, there is no reason why they shouldn’t. We pay attention to all the details.
While the UN followed all the electoral arrangements, the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, met with Mikati on Thursday.
“It looks like all the steps have been taken from an administrative and security perspective, and that’s an important issue,” Wronecka said.
She added: “I asked the prime minister what to expect before and even after the election, and I felt the seriousness and interest on his part to follow every detail.”
In a new report to the Security Council, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for “free, fair, transparent and inclusive parliamentary elections in Lebanon”.
He further urged “the rapid formation of a government thereafter that prioritizes the implementation of reforms responding to the country’s multiple crises.”
António Guterres said political polarization in the country has increased and Lebanese “struggle daily to meet basic needs”, pointing to frequent protests across the country sparked by “public frustration with the political situation and to the economic and financial crisis”.
He noted that proposals submitted over the past two years for a women’s quota were still pending in parliament, and he urged the speedy formation of the new government “with the full participation of women and youth”.
Guterres said Hezbollah’s maintenance of “significant and sophisticated military capabilities beyond the control of the Lebanese government remains a matter of grave concern.”