Scores of early voters in Lebanon have taken to social media to show off ink-stained fingers, a sign that the process of choosing the country's next Parliament is well and truly under way.
Dipping one’s finger in a jar of dark blue ink is the last part of the voting process and comes after voters cast their ballot and sign next to their name at the polling station.
While many voters proudly display their stained fingers to show they have performed their electoral duty, others complain that the ink is tough to remove — but there's a reason for that.
Why does Lebanon use blue ink in its elections?
The aim of the procedure, which was introduced during the 2009 elections, is to make it clearly visible that a person has voted and thus prevent them from voting twice, the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections said.
“Before 2009, there used to have an electoral card that they stapled after casting the vote,” the organisation's executive director, Ali Sleem, told The National.
Voter fraud in Lebanon is widespread, with a survey by the NGO Transparency International finding in 2019 that 47 per cent of Lebanese citizens had been offered bribes in exchange for votes.
In total, the Interior Ministry will be using 25,000 bottles of indelible ink purchased by the UN Development Programme's Lebanese Electoral Assistance Project, which is mostly funded by the European Union.
The UNDP told The National that the project has a budget of $8.6 million, which is being used to pay for 2,000 ballot boxes, 20,000 voting booths and 10,000 Covid-19 protection kits, among other items needed during the May 15 elections.
Lebanese officials have appealed for international help to fund the parliamentary election as the country battles an economic crisis that began in late 2019.
Leaders' long-term mismanagement of the country's finances caused the value of the Lebanese pound to lose 90 per cent of its value, with the World Bank describing it as one of the world's worst crises since the 1850s.
With more than three quarters of Lebanon's population having been pushed into poverty, independent opposition groups are trying to capitalise on widespread anger to make inroads against entrenched sectarian parties.
The crisis has also pushed many Lebanese to emigrate, joining the country's large diaspora. Nearly three times as many Lebanese registered to vote abroad in this election than in the previous one in 2018, which was the first time Lebanon allowed overseas voting.
Figures released by the Lebanese Foreign Ministry on Thursday showed that 142,041 out of 225,277 Lebanese who registered to vote overseas had cast their ballots during two rounds of voting on May 6 and May 8 — a turnout of 63.05 per cent.