BEIRUT: The vote of Lebanese expats on Friday will inaugurate the first phase of this month’s legislative elections.
Expats will vote in 59 countries, but only 10 nations will begin the first phase of voting on Friday. Expats from these countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Syria and Iraq, have a Friday weekend.
The second phase of voting takes place on May 8 in countries that have a Sunday weekend.
Elections in Lebanon will take place on May 15 with candidates competing in 15 districts from all governorates and districts to select new representatives for 128 parliamentary seats.
The mandate of the current parliament, elected four years ago, will end on May 21.
The code of conduct for candidates and the media comes into effect 24 hours before the vote.
All means of invitation, intimidation and sectarian polarization have been used by the ruling parties to ensure their retention in parliament, frustrating the opposition’s tireless attempts to reverse the situation.
Regions with Christian influence top the list of candidates, with 269 registered in Mount Lebanon and 292 in the north.
The south, a predominantly Shiite region, has the lowest application rate, with just 105 applications, while Beirut registered 174 and the Bekaa region 203.
Nadim Abdelmalak, chairman of Lebanon’s election monitoring commission, criticized “the chaotic opinion polls that announce the victory of one candidate and the failure of another, despite warnings sent by the commission to those concerned . The election requires that every opinion poll prepared for the announcement be provided to the commission.
Abdelmalak criticized “the extent of hate speech and betrayal, given that electoral law requires that such rhetoric be toned down, avoiding debasement, insult, incitement to sectarian conflict and sometimes terrorism , perhaps used to reinforce bigotry”.
The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections said money was spent buying loyalties to secure victory, in addition to providing campaign aid, pledges and bribes.
The association added that violence, pressure tactics, influence, public resources, racist and bigoted rhetoric, slander and defamation had all been used by some candidates seeking electoral advantage.
Intimidations have started in the region of Sarafand, in southern Lebanon, to prevent opponents of the Shiite groups Hezbollah and the Amal movement from announcing their candidacy.
Intimidation was also carried out in the northern Bekaa region by the same duo against other Shiite candidates, including Sheikh Abbas Al-Jawhari. Shots and rockets were fired at an election meeting he held.
Candidate Hassan Raad was beaten during a religious rally in Baalbek. The Amal movement and Hezbollah have previously pushed some families to disown female candidates on competing lists.
As a result, three Shiite candidates – Ramez Amhaz, Hayman Mchayek and Rifaat Al-Masri – withdrew from the election.
Intimidations also took place in the northern region of Jbeil. An unidentified drone was seen hovering over the district of candidate Faris Saeed, who opposes Hezbollah and Iranian influences in Lebanese politics. A car was also spotted around his house in Qartaba, allegedly monitoring his activities.
The atmosphere of incitement reached its height when Sheikh Nazir Jishi called for the election of Hezbollah candidates and attacked the Lebanese Forces Party, using derogatory terms against women in predominantly tourist areas. Christian, to the point that it was disowned by Hezbollah and the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council. Advice.
The visits of Gebran Bassil, president of the Free Patriotic Movement, to certain regions have come up against popular denunciations on the background of Bassil’s alliance with Hezbollah. During his visit to Lebanon’s northern region of Akkar, Bassil’s convoy was blocked, and party pictures and signs were burned, escalating into a violent clash.
Sunni voters are divided into two categories. The former, mostly loyal to Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, will abstain from voting, while the latter says there is a chance for change, noting that the Sunni scene controls more than half of the electoral constituencies in Lebanon.
Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, described the vote as “the most important political battle in Lebanon”. In March, he stressed that “it is important that all Hezbollah deputies win and that we must work to obtain the majority”.