Live updates: follow the latest news on the Lebanese election 2022
Polls closed on Sunday in Lebanon's parliamentary election after months of uncertainty about whether it would go ahead.
Voting began just after 7am in the country’s 15 electoral districts and by mid-evening, Lebanon's Ministry of Interior said turnout had reached 37.52 per cent.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati held a press conference after the vote, where he denied the turnout would be as low as feared and praised security forces for ensuring the vote was held safely.
In a turnaround from high expatriate voting before Sunday's poll, the national election was on track to have one of the lowest participation rates since elections resumed in 1992 following the civil war.
At a press conference following the vote, Mr Mikati highlighted a high showing in some districts that bucked the national trend. He called the election a "victory for Lebanon."
The vote, only the second in 14 years, could be important in deciding what direction the country takes, amid the worst economic crisis in its history.
While the powerful political parties that have run the country in successive power-sharing governments since the end of the civil war in 1990 are expected to retain the majority of the 128 seats, independent and opposition groups have fielded dozens of candidates in the hope of offering a real chance for change.
After mass protests in 2019 brought down the government, there is hope among many voters that they can get a new crop of MPs into parliament and break the hold of the parties they blame for the current crisis.
“I voted for change, I was forced to leave Lebanon and I came back before the elections so I could get a chance to cast my vote here,” first-time voter Abdul Rahman Samad, 21, told The National from a polling station in Beirut.
The voting process itself, he says, was very straightforward and simple.
Voters arriving at the polling centre must present a valid ID or Lebanese passport to verify their identity. Security forces then check the registration lists to confirm they are eligible to vote at the designated polling station.
Mr Samad’s sentiment was echoed by others.
“I’m in my 50s and this is my first-time voting. I had to do something for change, maybe this will be the end of the mafias in power,” said Suzy Majzoub.
Latifa, a Lebanese homemaker, blamed the current politicians for the crisis that has pushed thousands of young people overseas to find work to support families back home.
“I have voted several times but never saw results. We want change this time. Our kids are abroad. We want change, we want jobs, we want stability. They took our kids away, they denied us of their warmth and presence, I want them to come back to me, so I had to try,” she told The National as she walked out of the polling station with an ink-stained thumb.
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 the wait outside the room with the ballot boxes can be long, a young Lebanese woman says it is worth it.
Dana, 23, told The National she voted for the first time on Sunday and did it out of a deep desire for change.
“I hope people who are voting this year don’t repeat the same mistakes of the past years and don’t vote for the people who are behind the crisis. We really want to see change. We’re still traumatised from the Beirut port blast, why would we give them power again?” she said.
She was not the only voter to accuse Lebanon's traditional parties of causing the country's crisis.
"We can’t take this any longer. The situation is unbearable," said Layla, 60. "If we don’t vote to make a change then who will?
President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and several other key officials were also seen casting their ballots at polling stations. A man was reportedly arrested for verbally abusing the president when he came to vote in south Beirut.
On Saturday evening, President Michel Aoun addressed the nation and urged people to cast their ballot, saying it was a national duty.
“This is your chance, do not waste it, especially in light of the facts that have been unveiled in the past two years, and the lies that have been exposed, and now that corruption and embezzlement have faces and names,” he said.
The World Bank has described Lebanon's crisis, the result of decades of corruption and mismanagement, as one of the worst in modern times.
The value of the Lebanese pound has decreased by more than 90 per cent against the dollar.
Well over half the population has plunged beneath the poverty line, jobs have evaporated and food, medicine and other essentials have become scarce.
The next parliament is expected to vote on long-delayed reforms required by the International Monetary Fund to unlock financial support to ease the crisis.
It is also due to elect a head of state to replace Mr Aoun, whose term ends on October 31.
Whatever the outcome, analysts say Lebanon could face a period of paralysis as factions barter over portfolios in a new power-sharing cabinet, a process that usually takes months.