Hope, Pride and the Lebanon Elections

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Things are really bad in Lebanon on every front. Everybody complains about governance issues. One way to bring about change is through the elections that are coming up.

The legislative elections are scheduled for March 27, 2022, but diaspora voter registration closes in just a few days. There’s a great website called Sawti Voice that tracks voter registration and other important information. It’s a credible source, all maintained by volunteers. It shows that right now we have 150,000 diaspora voters registered as of mid-November. It’d be great to get it to 200,000 by the registration deadline of November 20.

A source of hope and pride

The October 2019 protests were a source of great hope and pride for Lebanese people in the diaspora. Rather than just complaining and throwing their hands up in the air and saying ‘this is Lebanon, there’s nothing we can do,’ people came out on a mass scale from every region of the country and said ‘Yes, there is something we can do! We can no longer accept the bad governance that has crippled our country for decades.’

It was a source of hope because it was done peacefully. People rose out of their stupor and hopelessness and fatalism. It was a source of pride because even as they protested in every region of the country, protesters organized pop-up civic education classes right there on the streets so that people could understand what their rights were under the constitution and how they could organize to bring about a change in the failed governance patterns of the past through constructive and legal means.

Even the universities took their classes to the street for as long as possible so that students could keep their education going while still participating in the protests.

And then the financial crisis, absentee governance pressures, and finally even COVID hit and people had to go home, with the ensuing economic crisis deepening and adding to the misery.

Elections are Approaching

The elections in March are an opportunity for the people to again stand up, shake themselves from passivity and do something. For those in the diaspora not yet registered, there’s still time. Voter registration closes on November 20, so the time to act is now. It’s super-easy to register, it barely took me 5 minutes.

In the last election, almost no one voted. I am registered in the voting district of South-3. In 2018, barely 2,000 people voted for change in my area — while 230,000 people didn’t vote at all!

Electoral map from Sawti Voice.

We in the diaspora cannot complain about the state of our country if we do not vote to bring about change and encourage others, abroad and in Lebanon, to vote as well. The diaspora has been footing the bill all these decades, keeping the country functioning financially and ticking over economically. If you don’t participate, then you’re essentially voting for the status quo and even more bad governance.

Change is a process not an event

There are a couple ways you can help Lebanon from the outside. One is by supporting Anera and organizations like it. Another is through participating in this election and making sure that you and everyone you know in the diaspora is registered to vote. If your Lebanese passport or ID (hawiyyeh) is expired or old, respectively, you have time to renew it before March 2022 but you must have registered to vote NOW before November 20.

Voting won’t turn everything around all at once. I’m not saying that a vote will bring a 180 degree change. Change is a process and not an event. It’s by voting and doing all of the accompanying things before and after the election that we can begin to make a difference.

Let’s build on the peaceful protests that started two years ago.

Leena El-Ali is a former member of the Anera Board of Directors. An international development consultant, she is the author of the soon-to-be-published “No Truth Without Beauty: God, the Qur’an, and Women’s Rights”, part of the United Nations co-sponsored Sustainable Development Goals Series, Publisher: Springer Nature Switzerland AG/Palgrave Macmillan. Follow her on LinkedIn and on Twitter.



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