Lebanese expats cast ballots in six Arab countries in the region on Friday, ahead of their country’s first parliamentary elections in nearly a decade, due on May 6.
The voting abroad also marks the first time that Lebanese nationals living overseas are able to cast ballots in early voting. On Friday, balloting is being held in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt and will be followed by voting Sunday for Lebanese residing in 33 countries in the Americas, Europe, Australia and Africa.
There are millions of Lebanese abroad, but Lebanon’s state-run news agency says the number of registered voters is 82,970. Those registered in Arab countries number 12,609.
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil tweeted that he was “very proud” to witness the first expat voting in the history of the Lebanese republic.
“It marks the beginning of a track that will not stop until the return of all Lebanese to their country,” he posted as people followed the voting on a large screen at the foreign ministry.
The elections next month in Lebanon are the first in nine years after parliament postponed them several times over security reasons. The house’s term was supposed to expire in 2013 but lawmakers approved several extensions since then, the last one in June for another 11 months.
Activists accuse politicians of delaying the vote for political reasons.
The vote is expected to be a test for both the western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group, although they are likely to form another unity government that includes the Iranian-backed Shiite group after the elections.
Results from the expat voting will not be published until parliament elections are completed May 6. The government has declared May 4 to May 7 a public holiday in Lebanon to facilitate the elections.
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