Legislative in Lebanon: the diaspora has hope, but has no illusions

Jad El Tal, 25, proudly shows his thumb still stained with purple ink to the camera of his computer, proof that he went to vote last Sunday.

I had the privilege of votinglaunches the Torontonian.

It is only the second time, since 2018, that Lebanese living abroad, like him, have been allowed to vote in their country’s legislative elections.

Jad El Tal thinks it’s more important than ever for the Lebanese to make their voices heard. These are indeed the first elections since the economic slump in which Lebanon was plunged, the popular uprising of 2019, the deadly double explosion at the port of Beirut in August 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

My heart is broken. […] When I go back to Lebanon, and I have the chance to go back there twice a year, I see that there is a lot of despair among the population and the young people. There is a lot of contempt. I hope this will encourage them to go and votehe said.

Jad El Tal shows his ink-stained thumb.

Jad El Tal of Toronto hopes his fellow Lebanese will turn out to vote in large numbers.

Photo: Radio-Canada

Encouraged by civil society organizations and Lebanese activists from all over the world, more than 225,000 Lebanese living abroad have registered to vote in the legislative elections this year, almost three times more than in 2018, according to the think tank Arab Reform Initiatives.

This is the case of Sabine El Hayek, a teacher from Oakville, near Toronto, who went to vote for the first time in her life on Sunday. Arriving in Canada four years ago, she explains that she has long supported one of the country’s traditional parties. Last week, however, she decided to give her vote to a newcomer.

There, the stake is really important. We have to do something. You can’t make the same mistakes over and over again. […] We’ve been voting for the same people for years and it doesn’t workshe explains.

We want to see a state, a state that is being built. »

A quote from Sabine El Hayek

A difficult system to change

Although he hopes that the political and economic situation will improve in Lebanon, Jad El Tal has no illusions. The revolution, he says, does not happen in a day or in a single election.

He hopes that the new opposition parties will succeed in winning between 5 and 10 seats in parliament, which would give them enough leverage, he believes, to enable them to build political coalitions.

I hope this will make it possible to create cracks in the system so that we can have a Lebanon that truly represents the population within 5, 10, 15 or 20 years.

Women and men raising one arm in the air.

Protesters reciting the Lebanese national anthem during a ceremony in tribute to the victims of the gigantic explosions that occurred on August 4, 2020 in Beirut.

Photo: Getty Images / PATRICK BAZ

The assistant professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University Lama Mourad, agrees.

Political change is possible, but it is clear that the obstacles facing new political actors in Lebanon are major. In the best of scenarios, there is the hope of having some new actors in parliament. It will not be a huge change, but the idea is to make the political class realize that the population wants changeshe explains.

When hope crumbles

Hamsa Diab Farhat, co-founder of the campaign Lebanon Strongset up following the explosion in the port of Beirut, includes his compatriots who will not vote.

It’s very difficult to keep hope because it’s always the same politicians and the same leaders, but hope is importantshe says.

His sister-in-law, Miriam Farhat, admits having never voted in her country of origin.

Every election they say they want change, but it’s always the same. […] My parents fled the civil war and until today they cannot return to live there. They are old and there is no electricity there, earning a living is difficultshe explains.

Jad El Tal with Beirut and the sea behind him.

Jad El Tal in Lebanon in December 2021.

Photo: Provided by Jad El Tal

Some people are so tired of all this and politics that they don’t want [aller voter]. My message to them is: please go vote because it matters.says for his part Jad El Tal.


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