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Lebanon gears up for parliamentary election amid economic crisis

People arrive at Turkish Embassy to Beirut to cast their votes for Turkey's presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 in Beirut, Lebanon on 16 June, 2018 [Jihad Muhammad Behlok/Anadolu Agency]
People arrive at Turkish Embassy to Beirut to cast their votes for Turkey's presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 in Beirut, Lebanon on 16 June, 2018 [Jihad Muhammad Behlok/Anadolu Agency]

Lebanon is gearing up for parliamentary elections on 15 May following the closure of candidate registration for the vote this week, Anadolu News Agency reports.

The polls will be the first since the Arab country was rocked by popular protests in 2019 on the back of economic deterioration and energy shortages.

So far, 1043 candidates have submitted their applications to run for parliamentary seats, with women making up 15 per cent of the candidates, with 155 hopefuls.

Candidates will run for 128 seats in the parliament, in accordance with the 1989 Taif Agreement, which states that parliamentary elections in Lebanon be held every four years with seats distributed among the various sects.

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Sunni and Shia Muslims will take 28 seats each, 8 for Druze, 34 for Maronites, 14 for Orthodox Christians and 8 for Catholics.

Five seats are allocated for Armenians, two for Alawites and one seat for minorities within the Christian community.

Candidates in the upcoming elections have the right to withdraw their application within 15 days after the closure of registration. Candidate registration for the vote closed on 15 March.

The polls come amid a severe economic crisis in Lebanon and a shortage of electricity supply due to insufficient fuel needed for power generation.

Record candidates

The May 15 polls witnessed the largest number of candidates in the last 15 years.

In 2018, 976 candidates ran for seats in parliament, 702 in 2009, and 484 candidates in 2005.

Since 2009, the parliament has extended its term more than once due to security and political developments in the country.

Mohamed Shams El-Din, a researcher at the International Information Company, told Anadolu Agency that the number of candidates in this year's elections went beyond expectations, as no one expected the number to exceed the total number of candidates in the 2018 vote.

He cites three reasons for the high numbers of candidates in the elections: clarity of political vision among parties and civil society organisations; the possibility of establishing electoral alliances and the availability of funding for independent candidates and representatives of civil society organisations.

Fears of boycott

However, there have been fears that large segments of the society will boycott the elections.

Former Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, and his Future Movement will not take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Other key Sunni politicians such as the current Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, and former Premier, Fouad Siniora will also not  run in the vote.

Observers say that the withdrawal of such influential figures may affect voter turnout.

Abdo Saad, the Head of the Beirut Centre for Research and Information, said the Lebanese people lack the enthusiasm to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, unlike in previous votes.

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"This year, the Lebanese are busy (trying) to secure their basic needs in light of a severe economic crisis, a dearth of job opportunities and a scarcity of fuel, commodities and basic products," he said.

"The upcoming elections will not witness massive turnout, and will be less than the 2018 elections, which saw 49.7 per cent voter turnout," he added.

Interior Minister, Bassam Mawlawi, told reporters on Tuesday that "all attempts to postpone or not hold the elections have failed," stressing the country's commitment "to the law and the constitution."

He called on all Lebanese to vote massively in the upcoming elections, while also urging local and foreign observers "to participate in monitoring the elections to ensure their transparency."

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