Lebanese expats in Dubai brave 1km queues and 40 degrees heat to vote in crunch election
Welcome to The New Arab’s coverage of Lebanon’s General Election 2022 held on May 15, 2022. Follow live updates, results, analyses, and opinion in our special hub here.
Thousands of Lebanese expatriates across the world headed to local embassies and consulates this weekend to cast their votes in crunch general elections.
The UAE stole the show as Lebanese formed a 1km queue outside the consulate in Dubai in 40 degrees heat for the first round of Lebanon's parliamentary elections.
عسكري في شرطة #دبي يخفف على اللبنانيين وطأة الحر بحيث بلغت درجة الحرارة ٤٠ درجة، وسط إصرارهم على البقاء للاقتراع في #طوابير_التغيير .. شكراً.. #دبي #الاغتراب_اللبناني #صوت_تغيير تا تغير المصير #الانتخابات_النيابية_اللبنانية #إنتخابات_المغتربين #لبنان #انتخابات_2022 pic.twitter.com/FJDnmBGRkv— Bila Rakaba (@BilaRakaba) May 8, 2022
Some pointed out that Lebanese were voting in elections in a federal constitutional monarchy which grants its own citizens no right to vote.
Delegates in white vests representing reformist coalitions in Lebanon could be seen singing, dancing and encouraging people to vote for alternative groups.
هيدا الفيديو في القنصلية اللبنانية العامة بدبي بيكبر القلب وبذات الوقت بزعل، وبخلينا نلعن يالي هجركن من هون ونتمسك اكثر بإرادتنا بتغيير الاكثرية المتوحشة الحاكمة هلق و لي هي السبب بكلشي صار و نتمسك بسيادة لبنان اكتر و استقلاله❤️#دبي #بيروت #لبنان #الامارات #الانتخابات_النيابية pic.twitter.com/yS3B8PMddx— Omar Ismail (@OMAR_M_ISMAIL) May 8, 2022
The ballots closed at just over 71 percent voter turnout in Dubai and 77 percent turnout in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, standing at just over 72 percent in total.
People could be seen rushing to the consulate with their suitcases before the polls closed at 10pm local time (7pm GMT), straight after leaving the airport.
Those who were still outside were let in before doors closed, with Lebanon’s MTV reporting that hundreds showed up in the last minutes of voting.
كبرتوا قلبنا.. شكراً بحجم وطن.. شكراً للتغييريين..مشوار الألف ميل بدأ في مسيرة الألف ميل.. #دبي #الاغتراب_اللبناني #صوت_تغيير تا تغير المصير #الانتخابات_النيابية_اللبنانية #إنتخابات_المغتربين #لبنان #انتخابات_2022 pic.twitter.com/yI54Z0dtpg— Bila Rakaba (@BilaRakaba) May 8, 2022
While opposition parties believe many of these votes were in their favour, the Christian Lebanese Forces party also seemed convinced that they were in the lead.
Some violations were recorded by the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE), who said they saw delegates from traditional parties sneak voters in through a back entrance.
A spokeswoman representing the Progressive Socialist Party - whose leader Walid Junblatt has been part of the establishment for decades - later claimed they were letting in elderly citizens, pregnant women, or families with young children, in comments made to Lebanese Al Jadeed TV.
Several people speculated that only one polling station was opened in Dubai for such large numbers to discourage people from voting. But Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib said opening another centre would have cost the cash-strapped government an additional $200,000.
The turnout of Lebanese diaspora voting in 58 countries in total was nearly 60 percent, officials said on Monday.
Polling stations opened in 10 Muslim-majority countries on Friday, while 48 countries saw voting on Sunday. The UAE recently changed its weekends to Saturday and Sunday.
Some 130,000 Lebanese expatriates out of 225,000 registered voters cast their ballots, Foreign Ministry official Hadi Hashem said, releasing preliminary figures.
245,000 Lebanese expats registered to vote.— Timour Azhari (@timourazhari) May 8, 2022
Turnout has exceeded 50/60% in most places.
That means turnout of 130,000/140,000+
= 3X turnout of last election in 2018 (46,000).#Lebanonelections2022 #إنتخابات_المغتربين
In 2018, roughly 50,000 people out of 90,000 registered voters abroad cast their ballots - a turnout of 56 percent. It was the first time Lebanese living abroad were able to vote.
While the number of overseas voters has more than doubled this year, they represent only a fraction of the millions of Lebanese residing abroad.
The overseas ballots will now be sent to the capital Beirut for counting when polls close after nationwide voting on 15 May for Lebanon’s 128-seat parliament.
The elections are the first since mass protests erupted in late 2019 against the country's entrenched ruling elite, widely blamed for the economic collapse.
Many Lebanese are hoping to see candidates from non-sectarian opposition parties and coalitions win, challenging the establishment made up of former warlords and business tycoons.
The economic crisis has pushed middle-class Lebanese, including families, graduates, doctors and nurses to emigrate in search of a better future. A very large number of them have left for France or the UAE.
Some analysts have claimed that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are heavily interfering in the elections in favour of their allies, at the expense of Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies.
Militant group Hezbollah - funded and armed by Tehran - regularly slams Riyadh and its Gulf neighbours for interfering in Lebanese affairs.
The UAE has in recent years expelled some Lebanese Shias it accuses of having links to Hezbollah.