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Lebanon elections: Polls open in high-stakes parliamentary vote

The election is the first in Lebanon since a popular uprising in 2019 demanded the fall of the ruling elite, accusing mainstream parties of widespread corruption and mismanagement. Several new political groups have emerged from the protest movement and are taking part in Sunday’s race, taking on establishment parties.

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

A nearly three-year economic depression and the August 2020 port explosion, widely blamed on the country’s political elite, could also encourage Lebanese to vote in large numbers for new parties.
Lebanon’s financial crisis has driven poverty rates to over 75%, its plummeting currency and rapidly deteriorating infrastructure. The United Nations and the World Bank have accused the country’s leaders of exacerbating the economic depression.

The Iranian-backed armed political group, Hezbollah, has also become a hot topic in Lebanon’s elections. Several political groups have vowed to try to disarm the Shia party – which they say has dominated the political sphere – despite still enjoying broad support among its constituents.

Hezbollah’s election rallies – where the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has urged people to vote en masse – have drawn thousands of supporters this week.

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

The tiny eastern Mediterranean country has had a sectarian power-sharing system since its founding a century ago. The parliament is divided equally between Muslims and Christians, with the post of prime minister reserved for a Sunni Muslim, the presidency for a Maronite Christian and its speaker of parliament for a Shia Muslim.


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