The Fort Worth Press - Crisis-hit Lebanon goes to polls but few expect major change

USD -
AED 3.673016
AFN 71.737228
ALL 92.504722
AMD 387.156217
ANG 1.800157
AOA 848.359004
ARS 889.580927
AUD 1.508751
AWG 1.8025
AZN 1.703567
BAM 1.801999
BBD 2.016769
BDT 117.160363
BGN 1.801999
BHD 0.376468
BIF 2867.093564
BMD 1
BND 1.348689
BOB 6.901921
BRL 5.138719
BSD 0.998848
BTN 83.019118
BWP 13.570738
BYN 3.268807
BYR 19600
BZD 2.01336
CAD 1.36675
CDF 2810.00011
CHF 0.914499
CLF 0.032842
CLP 906.220468
CNY 7.241992
CNH 7.26126
COP 3864.74
CRC 512.092873
CUC 1
CUP 26.5
CVE 101.593956
CZK 22.705302
DJF 177.841249
DKK 6.87691
DOP 58.819736
DZD 134.383379
EGP 47.144437
ERN 15
ETB 57.390519
EUR 0.92175
FJD 2.26765
FKP 0.796099
GBP 0.78505
GEL 2.70968
GGP 0.796099
GHS 14.532639
GIP 0.796099
GMD 67.774965
GNF 8586.17036
GTQ 7.758787
GYD 208.974064
HKD 7.81284
HNL 24.683282
HRK 6.979956
HTG 132.795872
HUF 354.269684
IDR 16045
ILS 3.658575
IMP 0.796099
INR 83.05245
IQD 1308.425853
IRR 42075.000091
ISK 138.170072
JEP 0.796099
JMD 156.318238
JOD 0.708896
JPY 156.873999
KES 130.349572
KGS 87.955704
KHR 4074.261759
KMF 455.650128
KPW 899.999697
KRW 1366.349793
KWD 0.30701
KYD 0.832358
KZT 442.391855
LAK 21378.357212
LBP 89445.15594
LKR 299.212236
LRD 193.574997
LSL 18.479837
LTL 2.95274
LVL 0.60489
LYD 4.839913
MAD 9.963146
MDL 17.71963
MGA 4426.221956
MKD 56.774312
MMK 2097.572212
MNT 3449.999773
MOP 8.03796
MRU 39.739565
MUR 46.079845
MVR 15.459914
MWK 1731.791588
MXN 16.672615
MYR 4.709637
MZN 63.496955
NAD 18.480124
NGN 1468.150173
NIO 36.762335
NOK 10.5915
NPR 132.830884
NZD 1.633275
OMR 0.384669
PAB 0.998848
PEN 3.734095
PGK 3.881697
PHP 58.190296
PKR 277.863546
PLN 3.92215
PYG 7512.783895
QAR 3.641506
RON 4.586599
RSD 107.934675
RUB 91.625017
RWF 1313.493343
SAR 3.750603
SBD 8.475185
SCR 13.659033
SDG 600.999662
SEK 10.660099
SGD 1.349602
SHP 1.26345
SLE 22.847303
SLL 20969.50094
SOS 571.000261
SRD 32.274498
STD 20697.981008
SVC 8.740038
SYP 2512.529855
SZL 18.363661
THB 36.649681
TJS 10.767402
TMT 3.51
TND 3.11875
TOP 2.364801
TRY 32.224902
TTD 6.783065
TWD 32.229839
TZS 2596.949818
UAH 40.091215
UGX 3800.617312
UYU 38.439213
UZS 12698.207951
VEF 3622552.534434
VES 36.500745
VND 25471
VUV 118.72199
WST 2.803093
XAF 604.373704
XAG 0.032815
XAU 0.000428
XCD 2.70255
XDR 0.754503
XOF 604.373704
XPF 110.701654
YER 250.349933
ZAR 18.41569
ZMK 9001.187991
ZMW 26.658682
ZWL 321.999592
  • SCS

    0.1300

    13.18

    +0.99%

  • BCC

    4.6500

    141.11

    +3.3%

  • BCE

    -0.2200

    33.57

    -0.66%

  • GSK

    -0.0300

    45.12

    -0.07%

  • NGG

    -1.0300

    60.69

    -1.7%

  • CMSD

    0.0000

    24.09

    0%

  • RIO

    0.4300

    71.85

    +0.6%

  • CMSC

    0.1200

    24.24

    +0.5%

  • AZN

    0.3600

    78.54

    +0.46%

  • JRI

    0.0250

    11.395

    +0.22%

  • RBGPF

    -1.8300

    55.21

    -3.31%

  • VOD

    -0.0300

    9.33

    -0.32%

  • RELX

    0.5300

    44.69

    +1.19%

  • BP

    0.3000

    36.72

    +0.82%

  • RYCEF

    0.1020

    5.65

    +1.81%

  • BTI

    -0.1100

    30.62

    -0.36%

Crisis-hit Lebanon goes to polls but few expect major change
Crisis-hit Lebanon goes to polls but few expect major change / Photo: © AFP

Crisis-hit Lebanon goes to polls but few expect major change

Lebanon held its first election Sunday since a painful economic crisis dragged it to the brink of becoming a failed state, a major test for new opposition groups bent on ousting the ruling elite.

Text size:

But few observers expected a seismic shift, with all levers of political power firmly in the hands of traditional sectarian parties and an electoral system seen as rigged in their favour.

Lebanon shares power among its religious communities, and politics is often treated as a family business. By convention, the president is a Maronite Christian, the premier a Sunni Muslim, and the parliament speaker a Shiite.

"We tried this current political class before, and now is the time to bring in new faces," said 28-year-old Beirut voter Nayla after casting her ballot.

A new generation of independent candidates hopes to kindle the kind of change that a 2019 protest movement failed to deliver, and looked likely to do better than the single assembly seat they clinched last time.

But most of parliament's 128 seats are expected to remain in the grip of the entrenched groups blamed for the country's woes -- chiefly the economic downturn that is the worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Turnout in the election was low, with only about 25 percent of registered voters casting their ballots by 3:00 pm, according to the interior ministry.

"It seems almost impossible to imagine Lebanon voting for more of the same," said Sam Heller, an analyst with the Century Foundation. "And yet that appears to be the likeliest outcome."

- Years of crisis -

Lebanon's crisis has been so severe that more than 80 percent of the population is now considered poor by the United Nations, with the most desperate increasingly attempting perilous boat crossings to flee to Europe.

The Lebanese pound has lost 95 percent of its value, people's savings are blocked in banks, the minimum wage won't buy a tank of petrol and mains electricity comes on only two hours a day.

Deepening the country's woes, much of the capital was devastated by the deadly August 2020 explosion of volatile chemicals that had been left for years in a portside warehouse, one of the largest non-nuclear blasts ever recorded.

Top political barons have stalled an investigation into the disaster, and legal proceedings against the Central Bank governor over alleged financial crimes are equally floundering.

Lebanon, once described as the Switzerland of the Middle East, ranked second-to-last behind Afghanistan in the latest World Happiness Index released in March.

The army deployed across the country Sunday to secure the election, which Lebanon's international donors have stressed is a prerequisite for financial aid crucial to rescue it from bankruptcy.

After an underwhelming campaign stifled by the all-consuming economic turmoil, voting was only disrupted by minor incidents in some polling stations.

- 'Getting back our Lebanon' -

Despite government assurances that polling stations would have power on election day, local media reported blackouts in some centres.

Videos shared online showed people sporting their candidate's colours and shepherding voters into polling booths, continuing a decades-old trend of vote buying.

At one candidate's rally in the northern city of Tripoli, some well-wishers disappointed by the lack of cash handouts made off with the plastic chairs.

The outgoing parliament was dominated by the Iran-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah and its two main allies, the Shiite Amal party of speaker Nabih Berri, who has held the job since 1992, and President Michel Aoun's Christian Free Patriotic Movement.

One of the most notable changes in the electoral landscape is the absence of former prime minister Saad Hariri, which leaves parts of the Sunni vote up for grabs by new players.

For many voters, the election was a chance to vent their anger at the entire ruling elite.

"These elections are first and foremost a means of rooting out this political class and getting back our Lebanon," said Shadi, a 38-year-old whose flat was destroyed in the port explosion.

Like many others who posted pictures on social media Sunday, he chose to dip his middle figure in the bottle of electoral blue ink after casting his ballot.

A.Williams--TFWP