Two months before the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of Lebanese protested daily against the way their country was run. The Lebanese state is virtually bankrupt, result of decades of corrupt rule by a ruling class that turned Lebanon into a failed state.
‘Everyone means everyone’ was the slogan of the October 2019 nationwide protests. It meant that all of the current ruling class must go without exception. Lebanon today needs a new generation of reformist and patriotic politicians who put their country’s needs above their selfish and opportunistic interests, the protesters demanded.
The protests ended as Covid-19 forced everybody into lockdown worldwide. But the catastrophic blast at Beirut’s port eight months later, on August 4, 2020, which killed more than 200 and injured thousands, renewed the calls for real change. The government resigned but the new one, formed a year later, consisted of mostly the same names and party affiliations.
In one week, Lebanon holds its general elections, the first since both the protests and the disastrous explosion. The polls are also the first since the economic collapse, described by the World Bank as one of the worst in world history since 1850. The national currency lost 90 per cent of its value and more than 70 per cent of the population are now officially below the poverty line.
Changing the status quo
The polls are the opportunity the Lebanese people have to actually change the status quo. It is in their hands to save their country and put ‘everyone’ of the current incompetent leaders out of work.
Unfortunately, however, that will just remain a dream. The election results are expected to bring back those responsible for all the ills of the country. A quick look at the lists of the candidates, and the party alliances, will show that the new parliament will be in all probabilities another version of the current one!
A new law that gives the Lebanese diaspora the right to vote has been described as a real opportunity to elect new leaders as the expatriates vote more freely than those in the country where political and financial pressures lead them to vote for the same old parties.
But according to official figures, only 31,000 citizens in 10 Arab and Muslim countries had registered to vote in last Friday’s first phase. And less than 195,000 Lebanese citizens have registered to vote in other countries around the world.
And as per the local media, many of those who registered didn’t show up at Lebanon’s missions to cast their vote, disappointing those who rallied for years to get the expatriate voting right law passed in the hope that it would be a catalyst for change as it gives more than four million Lebanese the right to have their critical say in the way Lebanon is governed. But the turnout has been way less than hoped. Have the Lebanese lost all hope of improving things? Hopefully not.