Lebanon elections: polling stations opened after high-stakes parliamentary vote

The elections are Lebanon’s first since a popular uprising in 2019 claimed the downfall of the ruling elite and blamed traditional parties for widespread corruption and mismanagement. Several new political groups have emerged from the protest movement and are competing against the established parties in Sunday’s race.

Political observers view the election as highly competitive and unpredictable. Earlier this year, three-time Prime Minister Saad Hariri – the leader of the country’s largest Sunni Islamist parliamentary bloc – retired from politics, leaving Sunni votes up for grabs.

A nearly three-year economic depression and the August 2020 port explosion, largely blamed on the country’s political elite, may also prompt Lebanese to vote for new parties in droves.
Lebanon’s financial crisis has seen poverty rates rise above 75%, the currency has gone into freefall and infrastructure has fallen into rapid decline. The United Nations and the World Bank have blamed the country’s leaders for worsening the economic depression.

The Iranian-backed armed political group Hezbollah has also emerged as a hot topic in Lebanon’s elections. Several political groups have vowed to try to disarm the Shia party – which they say has dominated the political sphere – although it still enjoys widespread support among its constituents.

Hezbollah’s election rallies, where the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, called on people to vote en masse, drew thousands of supporters this week.

A Hezbollah-backed coalition — which includes other Shia and Christian allies — holds the majority of seats in the current parliament.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati will vote in parliamentary elections on May 15 at a polling station in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

The small country in the eastern Mediterranean has had a confessional power-sharing system since its founding a century ago. The parliament is split equally between Muslims and Christians, with the premiership reserved for a Sunni Muslim, the presidency for a Maronite Christian and the speaker of parliament for a Shia Muslim.

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