The parliamentary law adopted in 2017 was the first to allow expats to cast their votes; however the rules were very poorly publicized, turnout was low, registered voters lists were leaked and the whole process turned out to be a big mess.
To make things worse, this same law stated that the Lebanese diaspora will have the right to vote for 6 seats only in 2022, but it did not clarify which seats expats are eligible to vote for in an attempt to belittle their voice in and hijack their rights to vote.
This topic was tackled in depth by Kulluna Irada, a civic organization for political reform in Lebanon, working towards a modern, secure, efficient, sustainable and just state through strong and fair governance, and actively lobbying to cancel these six seats in order to achieve equality among resident and nonresident voters.
Why should we cancel these six seats?
– Expats can bring change: Expats were also hit hard by Lebanon’s liquidity crisis as they witnessed their lifetime savings getting wiped out, and found themselves incapable of supporting their families and friends back home. This has resulted in a growing anti-establishment sentiment that materialized in protests across the world and the birth of several organized diaspora independent political groups.
This new dynamic obviously worries Lebanon’s ruling political class as expats are more than capable now of playing an effective political part in Lebanon or their adopted countries. By limiting the expats’ influence to just six seats, the authorities would severely undermine their role.
– An Excuse to cancel voting rights for Expats:
If there’s one thing the Lebanese parliament is good at, it’s leaving loopholes in every law to use it against the voters when needed. Since they’re unable to control expats in their adopted countries the same way they control every aspect of the Lebanese political scene, they could simply claim that they’re unable to organize the expatriate voting due to the economic crisis and simply cancel it.
That way, they will play this “six seats” argument to ban all expats from exercising their right to vote.
– It doesn’t add up:
Why should someone living in the US for example, originating from Zahle, vote for the same candidate as someone in France who’s originally from Tyre? Why can’t they vote in their respective electoral districts? It simply doesn’t add up that all expats across the World’s continents will have to vote for only 6 seats instead of casting their ballots in the electoral districts of their civil registration.
– It violates the principle of equality:
Kulluna Irada explains it perfectly:
The principle of equality between all the Lebanese, both residents and nonresidents, presumes the guaranteeing of expatriates’ right to cast their ballots in the electoral districts of their civil registration. Under the relevant applicable provisions, this electoral system creates a hybrid electoral district that spans the six continents, where all nonresidents cast their ballots and where candidate lists are formed in an incoherent geographic space, which complicates the choices of the voters as well as the candidates’ campaigns, and ultimately serves the establishment’s political parties. It can be observed from the Lebanese voters’ behavior and approach to public affairs that they are closely plugged in to the political realities at home in Lebanon, and that most of them follow local politics, making them more than capable of making electoral choices in the different electoral districts. [Source]
All in all, lobbying is required to amend the existing electoral law and cancel all provisions on the creation of the six dedicated expat seats. Without doing so, the parliament which has illegally extended its own mandate once before and keeps on breaking rules and defying the constitution, will not hesitate to dismiss the expats’ right to vote if they feel it will play against them.
Up until this day, the parties in charge of following up on the registration for nonresident voting have yet to take any meaningful actions, and at the rate this is going, they won’t be able to do the necessary to kick off a registration campaign, establish more polling stations, organize the expat voting and make any necessary amends.