Nearly 245,000 Lebanese living abroad have signed up to vote in next year’s parliamentary polls, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday, after it closed the window for registration.
The vote scheduled for March 2020 is seen by many as a chance to challenge the ruling elite’s stranglehold on a country mired in its worse-ever financial crisis.
Lebanon’s diaspora — estimated to number at least three times the country’s 6-million population — will take part in the vote for the 128-seat parliament, making them a powerful electoral force.
The Foreign Ministry said the final expat voter count reached 244,442 — more than double the almost 93,000 who registered for the last parliamentary polls in 2018, Lebanon’s first expat vote.
While the first was poorly publicized, this time around opposition activists at home and abroad organized social media campaigns explaining the registration process.
In some parts of Europe, volunteers set up registration centers to help compatriots sign up.
Europe accounted for the largest number of registered expat voters, with nearly 75,000, followed by Asia with 61,000 voters, and North America, where 60,000 expats signed up, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
In Latin America, home to one of Lebanon’s largest and oldest diaspora communities, only 6,350 people registered for the vote.
The March polls mark the first major electoral test since the 2019 onset of a financial crisis widely blamed on nepotism and corruption among Lebanon’s ruling class.
It comes as Lebanese, nearly 80 percent of whom live below the poverty line, battle to survive with scant incomes and endless power cuts and price hikes.