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UN Chief Antonio Guterres urges 'free, transparent' elections as Lebanon goes to polls on May 15

The elections in Lebanon will take place on May 15 with candidates competing in 15 districts in all of the governorates and districts to select new representatives for 128 parliamentary seats

FPJ Web Desk | Updated on: Thursday, May 05, 2022, 09:29 AM IST

An electoral billboard for Najib Lyan, a candidate in the Lebanese parliamentary elections, next to Beirut Port’s damaged grain silos, in Beirut, Lebanon, on May 1, 2022 | AFP
An electoral billboard for Najib Lyan, a candidate in the Lebanese parliamentary elections, next to Beirut Port’s damaged grain silos, in Beirut, Lebanon, on May 1, 2022 | AFP
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The U.N. chief called for Lebanon’s parliamentary elections on May 15 to be “free, fair transparent and inclusive” in a report circulated Wednesday and urged the quick formation of a government afterward that gives priority to implementing reforms addressing the country’s multiple crises.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in the report to the U.N. Security Council that political polarization in the country has deepened and the Lebanese people “are struggling daily to meet basic essential needs.”

He pointed to frequent protests across the country sparked by “public frustration with the political situation and the economic and financial crisis.”

The May 15 elections for parliament are the first since Lebanon’s economic meltdown began in late 2019. The government’s factions have done virtually nothing to address the collapse, leaving Lebanese to fend for themselves as they plunge into poverty, without electricity, medicine, garbage collection or any other semblance of normal life.

The elections in Lebanon will take place on May 15 with candidates competing in 15 districts in all of the governorates and districts to select new representatives for 128 parliamentary seats.

Parliamentary elections take place in Lebanon every four years.

The electoral system works on a confessional basis, and sees Lebanon’s religious communities vote in a proportional representation system.

Critics say the sectarian nature of the voting system has been one of the reasons for Lebanon’s inability to effect change through the ballot box and its entrenched political elite.

In Lebanon, the president must always be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the speaker of parliament a Shia.

The term of the current parliament, elected four years ago, will end on May 21.

The code of conduct for candidates and media outlets comes into force 24 hours before the vote.

All means of invitation, intimidation and sectarian polarization have been used by the ruling parties to ensure their continuation in parliament, defeating tireless attempts by the opposition to turn the tables.

Regions with Christian influence top the list of candidates, with 269 registered in Mount Lebanon and 292 in the north.

The south, a region with a Shiite majority, has the lowest rate of candidacy, with just 105 standing, while Beirut registered 174 and the Bekaa region 203.

The small Mediterranean country is currently facing the worst economic crisis in its modern history, amid a financial meltdown that saw the country’s currency lose more than 90 percent of its value since 2019.

It has since triggered high inflation and shortages of fuel, medicine, food and other commodities.

In early April, the country reached a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to release around $3 billion of financial assistance in return for a series of key structural reforms – which the incoming government will be tasked with implementing.

More than 70 percent of the population in Lebanon now lives below the poverty line, according to the UN.

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Published on: Thursday, May 05, 2022, 09:29 AM IST