Elections in Lebanon: polls open with high-risk parliamentary vote

The election is the first in Lebanon since a popular uprising in 2019 called for the downfall of the ruling elite, blaming traditional festivals for widespread corruption and mismanagement. Several new political groups have come out of the protest movement and are competing in Sunday’s race, clashing with establishment parties.

Political observers consider the elections to be highly competitive and unpredictable. Earlier this year, three-time Prime Minister Saad Hariri – the leader of the country’s largest Muslim Sunni parliamentary bloc – quit politics, leaving the Sunni vote up for grabs.

An economic depression of nearly three years and the Port explosion in August 2020largely blamed on the country’s political elite, it could also encourage the Lebanese to vote in large numbers for new parties.
Lebanese army vehicles drive past a billboard depicting candidates for Sunday's parliamentary elections in Beirut, Lebanon, on May 14.
Lebanon’s financial crisis has caused poverty rates to rise to over 75%, its currency to free fall and its infrastructure to rapidly decay. the United Nations and the World Bank accused the country’s leaders of exacerbating the economic depression.

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

Hezbollah’s election demonstrations – in which group leader Hassan Nasrallah urged people to vote en masse – attracted thousands of supporters this week.

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

The small eastern Mediterranean country has had a sectarian power-sharing system since its founding a century ago. Parliament is equally divided between Muslims and Christians, with the presidency reserved for a Sunni Muslim, the presidency for a Maronite Christian and its parliament president for a Shiite Muslim.