BEIRUT: The second round of Lebanese expat voting took place on Sunday, with foreign voters from 48 countries heading to the polls as the country hopes to break the political deadlock.
Given the different time zones, it was difficult to control the votes on each continent. However, young expatriates who recently left Lebanon expressed great enthusiasm in voting for the forces of change over the ruling parties.
A total of 194,348 Lebanese expats registered to vote on Sunday, but turnout was relatively low, but the enthusiasm many had shown in the first round of expat voting on Friday kept optimism high.
Turnout is low compared to the last national elections in 2018. The low voting rate was even reflected in some countries where voters explicitly expressed their affiliation with Hezbollah and the Amal movement.
Expats living in countries that have a weekend on Sunday voted on Sunday, while those living in the 10 Arab and Muslim countries that have a weekend on Friday were the first to vote on Friday. The third and final stage will take place on May 15, with the Lebanese voting at home.
On Saturday at midnight Beirut time, polling stations opened in Australia, where the number of registered voters was 20,602. The voting process in the United Arab Emirates began at 6 a.m., with 25,066 voters registrants living in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Polls were then opened in European and African countries. As soon as polls closed in Australia at 3 p.m. Beirut time, polls opened in Canada, the United States, Brazil and Venezuela.
Speaking from the operations room designated to monitor the election via the internet, which is linked to all polling stations around the world, Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib announced that turnout in Australia had reached 54% a hour before the polls close.
Queues at the Lebanese Consulate General in Dubai stretched for more than a kilometer as voters waited for hours in the scorching sun to cast their ballots, while turnout in Abu Dhabi reached 65.2% at 3 p.m. Beirut time.
In 2018, the expat participation rate in the UAE exceeded 66%.
The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections reported some violations, such as voters taking selfies or photos of the lists they were voting for behind the insulators. He added that insulators at some polling stations in Australia had been exposed.
Candidate delegates observed the voting process in different countries. In African countries and Germany, supporters of Hezbollah and the Amal movement flocked to polling stations to campaign for their parties. Meanwhile, voters in Australia have complained that different polling stations are being assigned to multiple members of the same family, forcing them to make relatively long journeys to vote.
In Turkey, 999 Lebanese expatriates have registered to vote abroad, including 323 in Russia, 696 in Romania, 528 in Greece and 840 in Cyprus.
A total of 27,813 voters were registered in France, 233 in Ireland and 6,535 in Britain.
In Germany, 16,171 voters were registered, 2,601 in Switzerland, 2,128 in Italy, 1,226 in Spain, 965 in the Netherlands, 706 in Denmark, 282 in Austria, 215 in Poland, 200 in Luxembourg and 221 in Hungary.
In Zambia, 410 expatriates were registered, 405 in South Africa, 2,580 in Nigeria, 848 in Gabon, 653 in DR Congo, 518 in Benin, 332 in Angola, 228 in Cameroon, 248 voters in Morocco, 6,070 in Côte d 532 in Guinea, 1,012 in Ghana, 724 in Sierra Leone, 707 in Senegal, 458 in Togo, 376 in Liberia, 317 in Mali and 293 in Burkina Faso.
Meanwhile, President Michel Aoun visited the operations room in Beirut where he was briefed on how elections abroad are monitored. Speaking to the press, Aoun hoped that “the elections will end without any problems or objections and that things will improve in the next elections so that they will be easier and cheaper than today, using a code to vote and not have to steal at the polls.
Many foreign diplomats also visited the operations room to inspect the electoral process. EU Election Observation Mission Deputy Jarek Domanski said: “The mission’s 16 teams monitor developments in the electoral process and are spread across 13 European countries.
Domanski noted, “Teams undertaking the same task next Sunday will include approximately 170 observers. The mission team will monitor the number of ballot boxes arriving from overseas in order to match them when the counting process begins on May 15.