Given the current economic and social crisis in Lebanon, Lebanese expatriates see hope in the 2022 legislative elections, which will take place on March 27. This hope for change is fueled by Parliament’s decision to change the electoral law, allowing expatriates to vote for 128 seats instead of six. . As the expat registration deadline (November 20) approaches, diaspora networks around the world are mobilizing to try to raise awareness and encourage others to register.
After spending most of their life abroad, Youmna Debs Bekhazi and her family decided to return to Lebanon in 2016. Four years later, they found themselves packing their bags in search of a better future. that they would have liked to find in their country of origin.
âIt was hectic, but pleasant in Lebanon. We enjoyed being surrounded by our family and seeing our children become more connected to their roots, âsaid Debs Bekhazi. “However, the good game didn’t last long and we had no choice but to leave for Romania after the explosion at the Port of Beirut destroyed our home and the economic crisis left us deprived. of our own savings. ”
Despite the disappointment, Youmna and her family’s hope for change prompted them to register to vote for the next legislative elections which will take place on March 27, 2022.
“I believe elections are the seed for the change we all need,” she said. âIf the situation improves, we will return to Lebanon without hesitation.
As of November 19, global expatriate registration data recorded a total of 210,033 people registered for the 2022 elections, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants. That number is more than double that of those registered for the 2018 election, which was around 82,000.
“This increase indicates that more expatriates are engaging in the democratic process,” said Zeina Mokaddam, member of Nahwal Watan, a platform for political change and socio-economic renewal.
Ralph Debbas, a Lebanese expat living in New York, is among those who did not vote in 2018 but has already registered for the 2022 election and encourages others to do the same.
“While we felt there was a crisis [in 2018] and knew the government was corrupt, we felt we had little chance to change anything because of the lack of unity and leadership, âDebbas told FRANCE 24.â This time, however, we are united . The catalyst was mainly the explosion of August 4, but also the crisis that began before. “
The current enrollment trend predicts an average growth of 5-8.5% in the number of registrants per day through November 20, according to Ana Al Arar, an independent Lebanese group for constructive change.
Nancy Stephan Jabra, a member of the Lebanese Diaspora Network (TLDN), explained that there are several reasons contributing to this growth, including advocacy efforts and global initiatives to encourage expatriates to register.
âIn 2018, the Lebanese government and embassies around the world had a very limited reach,â explained Stephan Jabra. âThis time we have diaspora networks doing the job of government by encouraging and helping people to sign up. “
From social media campaigns and one-on-one zoom calls to field events and 24- to 48-hour registration marathons, Lebanese expats from all parts of the world have come together to raise awareness about the importance of voting.
âSocial media campaigns have been shown to be most effective with people who just need a push to sign up. For those who are more reluctant, Zoom or WhatsApp calls are more beneficial, âsaid Ghassan Hassan, member of Nahwal Watan, saying he volunteers nearly five hours of his time a day. âWe also help resolve technical issues that some people face during the registration process. “
Cristine Kahil, founder of the Lebanese Diaspora Exchange in Canada and a volunteer in several diaspora groups, also participated in offline activities.
âI printed flyers and went to some establishments and dropped them off,â Kahil said. âWe also organized mass initiatives where people could stop by and register. It was a way of taking digital and putting it in the physical to make people want to sign up.
The next steps
As the registration deadline approaches, the question remains whether those who have registered will actually commit to voting in the 2022 election.
According to Mokaddam, voter turnout will be affected by the accessibility of voting centers around the world and the efforts of the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants in this regard.
âIf people have to travel from one city, state or country to another, we will see the number of voters drop,â Mokaddam told France 24. âHowever, if the government, under the pressure from the international community, organize a smooth election, we can expect 70 percent or more of voters.
In an effort to also ensure that registered expats commit to voting, Stephan Jabra explained that TLDN has set up a set of planned events, including a campaign with the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE ) to increase electoral knowledge. Other diaspora networks also have several activities planned.
Stephan Jabra concluded that whatever the turnout, the results of this election will be remarkable, given the heightened political awareness of Lebanese in Lebanon and abroad due to the events that unfolded over the past 3 last years.