More than 240,000 Lebanese expats register to vote in parliamentary election

Europe has accounted for the largest number of overseas voters, the Foreign Ministry says

More than twice as many Lebanese expats have registered to vote in March than signed up to cast a ballot in the 2018 parliamentary election. India Stoughton / The National
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About 245,000 Lebanese living abroad have signed up to vote in next year's parliamentary election, Lebanon's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday after it closed the window for registration.

The vote, scheduled for March is considered by many to be a chance to challenge the ruling elite's stranglehold on a country mired in a financial crisis.

Moussa Yaakoub, a Lebanese business owner, counts his earnings. More than 80 per cent of the country's population lives below the poverty line. Reuters

Lebanon's diaspora, a group estimated to be at least three times the size of the country's population of about six million, will take part in the vote for the 128-seat parliament, making them a powerful electoral force.

The Foreign Ministry said 244,442 Lebanese living abroad have registered to vote — more than double the number in 2018, when about 93,000 registered for the parliamentary polls that year. It was the first time Lebanese living abroad were able to cast votes.

While that opportunity was poorly publicised, this time opposition activists at home and abroad have organised social media campaigns to explain the registration process.

In some parts of Europe, volunteers set up registration centres to help Lebanese sign up.

Europe accounted for the largest number of registered overseas Lebanese voters, with nearly 75,000, followed by Asia with 61,000 voters, and North America, where 60,000 signed up, the ministry said.

In Latin America, home to one of Lebanon's largest and oldest diaspora communities, only 6,350 people have registered for the vote.

The polls in March mark the first major electoral test since the start of the financial crisis in 2019, a problem widely blamed on nepotism and corruption among Lebanon's ruling class.

About 80 per cent of Lebanon's population live below the poverty line, with many struggling with a meagre income, regular power cuts and price increases.

Updated: November 21, 2021, 1:55 PM