Lebanese expats queue to cast their votes in Dubai on May 8, 2022. (Photo via Bloomberg / By Karim SAHIB / AFP / Getty Images)

Around 135,000 Lebanese expats cast their ballots

Around 135,000 Lebanese expats cast their ballots across 48 different countries over the weekend, with the second round of voting taking place on Sunday, May 8.

The first round of voting took place on Friday, with residents in 10 countries such as Qatar, Kuwait, Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia heading towards polling centers to participate.

The final stage of voting will take place on May 15, when citizens living in Lebanon are expected to cast their ballots.

Expats pursue change

Many of those casting their ballots were young expats who recently left Lebanon in pursuit of a better life abroad, with emigration rates jumping by 4.5 times between 2020 and 2021—from 17,721 to 79,134 individuals leaving the country.

77 percent of young people are also considering emigrating, as per the Lebanon Crisis Observatory at the American University of Beirut.

Many at the polls expressed their enthusiasm for the elections in videos and photographs spread over social media channels, where slogans like “Vote Them Out” stuck out as they advocated for new forces of change.

“I want change. I don’t want the same people, the same people every four years, and if not the same people then their kids, if not their kids, their relatives. What about us,” said Samir Sobbi, a Sydney truck driver, in an interview with Reuters.

Supporters of traditional political parties also cast their ballots for returning parliamentarians. Since the tipping of the economic crisis in October 2019, many have regarded these politicians as corrupt and largely responsible for driving the country towards ruin—but political parties still retain massive support across the country.

But opposition against them has become more vocal, with new faces spearheading the country’s “change.”

High voter turnout

The diaspora turnout for the 2022 election was nearly at 60 percent, similar to figures in the 2018 election, but the number of expat voters was almost three times higher this year.

Around 50,000 voted in 2018, compared to almost 135,000 in 2022.

The first round of expat voting on Friday encouraged many to head to polling centers on Sunday. Queues in Dubai stretched for over 1 KM, with total turnout reaching 71.2 percent. Some videos circulating on social media channels show expats arriving at the polling centers in Dubai straight from the airport, rushing to cast their ballots.

Voter turnout in Abu Dhabi reached 77 percent. In 2018, voter turnout in the UAE overall exceeded 66 percent. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, turnout was 61 percent, 59 percent in Gabon, 52 percent in Europe overall, and 79 percent in Cyprus.

The ballots will not be counted where they were cast, but instead will be sorted and packed by hand, sent from the voting center to Lebanon in sealed boxes through DHL. The votes will remain at the Central Bank until May 15, and will be counted in the district they belong to.

Experts have expressed concerns that such a method leaves room for stealing and tampering with the votes.