Many Lebanese said they hoped to inflict a blow to ruling politicians they blame for the country’s economic collapse in the first parliamentary election since the country’s economic meltdown on Sunday, even if the chances of dramatic change appear limited.
The election, which is the first since 2018, is considered as a test of whether Hezbollah and its allies, who are highly armed and backed by Iran, can maintain their parliamentary majority in the face of rising poverty and discontent at ruling parties.
Since the last election, Lebanon has been shaken by an economic catastrophe blamed on the ruling elite by the World Bank, as well as a catastrophic explosion at Beirut’s port in 2020.
While observers believe public outrage could help reform-minded candidates gain some seats, analysts do not foresee a significant movement in the power balance, given Lebanon’s sectarian political structure, which favors established parties.
“Lebanon deserves better,” said Nabil Chaya, 57, who is voting with his father in Beirut.
“It’s not my right, it’s my duty – and I think it makes a difference. There’s been an awakening by the people. Too little too late? Maybe, but people feel change is necessary.”
The crisis has been Lebanon’s most destabilizing since the 1975-1990 civil war, plummeting the currency by more than 90%, driving roughly three-quarters of the people into poverty, and freezing savers’ bank deposits.
According to local media, some voting locations had power outages as a result of the fall.
“I voted in hope to change the whole government and to have a better situation, for people to find work, be able to eat and drink. Things are very expensive and there is no electricity, no water,” said Khodr al-Ashi, 62, who’s voting in Beirut.
Rana Gharib, who lives in southern Lebanon, a political stronghold for the Shi’ite Hezbollah movement, said she lost her money in the financial crisis but still voted for the group.
“We vote for an ideology, not for money,” said Gharib, a thirty-year-old woman voting in Yater, praising Hezbollah for driving Israeli soldiers out of southern Lebanon in 2000.
Hussein Ismail, 40, said he had lost money in the financial crisis, but that would not deter him from voting for Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s Hezbollah-backed Shi’ite Amal Movement. He said, “Berri built us schools, roads, and hospitals.”
Unofficial results are anticipated overnight after polls close at 7:00 p.m. (1600 GMT).