In Lebanon, people elected a new parliament amid the country’s worst crisis in decades. 3.9 million eligible voters were called to vote on Sunday. Results were not expected until Monday. Despite the great dissatisfaction among the population, it became apparent that the Shiite Hezbollah party – Lebanon’s largest political and military organization – and its allies would once again become the strongest force.
Voter turnout was initially low in most regions of the country. According to the Interior Ministry, it was only a good 30 percent in the late afternoon. Shortly before the polling stations closed in the evening, some regions reported a larger rush. Lebanese media reported power outages at several polling stations. Lack of energy is a daily problem in Lebanon, but the Ministry of the Interior had guaranteed uninterrupted power supply to the polling stations.
Several violent incidents were reported from Hezbollah strongholds. The NGO Association for Democratic Elections said several of its members had been attacked at polling stations, some in the Bekaa region, where Hezbollah is particularly strong. From the same region, the Lebanese Forces Christian party reported that several of its representatives had been beaten and thrown from polling stations.
According to experts, independent candidates are likely to win more seats in the parliamentary elections than they did in 2018. However, no major change in the balance of power was expected.
Lebanon’s political system has long shared power among religious communities and consolidated a ruling elite. The President is traditionally a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of Parliament a Shia.
This system reduces opportunities for non-religious parties and civil society representatives. In the current parliament, the Hezbollah party and its allies are in the majority. A 2017 electoral reform favors the parties already in power. In addition, the most important Sunni politician and former head of government, Saad Hariri, boycotted the election in protest against the system.
Lebanon is in its worst crisis since the civil war that ended in 1990. Inflation is galloping, poverty is growing, Lebanese are leaving their country en masse. The state even fails to provide basic services such as electricity supply or garbage collection. This is where the traditional political leaders step in with their decades-old patronage networks. They distribute jobs in the public sector, for example, but also fuel and cash.