|Date: Apr 19, 2018|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Doing the numbers: Lebanese Ministers break down expat vote|
|Ghinwa Obeid| The Daily Star|
BEIRUT: Australia saw the largest number of expatriates register to vote in the upcoming elections on May 6 and the North III district has the largest number of overseas voters register, according to information shared by the Foreign Ministry Wednesday. A total of 82,970 expats are registered and eligible to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections, with 11,826 registered in Australia alone. Canada, the United States, Germany, France and the United Arab Emirates followed.
Of the 82,970 voters, 12,337 have registered to vote in the Bsharri-Zgharta-Koura-Batroun district, constituting almost 15 percent of all overseas voters. The second-highest number will be casting their ballots for the Bint Jbeil-Nabatieh-Marjayoun-Hasbaya district, with 8,739 voters.
The information was shared following a joint news conference held by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk Wednesday.
The 2018 elections are the first in which Lebanese expatriates will be able to exercise their right to vote from abroad under a new electoral law passed in summer 2017.
The country’s first parliamentary elections in nine years will be held on May 6, but expats will be voting in six Arab countries on April 27 and 34 other countries on April 29.
Voters can head to the polling stations between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. local time in each country.
“The number of registered voters amounted to 82,970 after the voters lists were corrected, distributed over ... 116 voting centers and 232 polling stations [around the world],” Bassil said at the news conference.
Countries with less than 200 registered voters will not have their own polling center, he said, adding that Cabinet had not approved a proposal to allow them to travel to a neighboring country with over 200 voters in order to cast their ballot. “Nevertheless, they can still come to Lebanon and vote here,” Bassil noted.
He said that over the past few months both the Interior and Foreign ministries had exerted every effort to ensure the expat voting process goes smoothly. He called on any foreign official who wanted to monitor the process to do so.
“The Foreign Ministry has informed all countries [involved] about the expat voting [process], based on the laws of each country,” Bassil said. “This issue [of coordination with foreign states] wasn’t easy, but all the problems that we faced were solved.”
Machnouk said that opening doors for expats to vote was one of the most significant reforms in the new electoral law.
“This is a new element where the Lebanese abroad can gain back their national duty and not only the constitutional aspect of it,” he said.
“Hopefully, with the next elections, they [the diaspora] will be able to elect their own lawmakers.”
Machnouk said the expat voting process would take place in a secure and verifiable way. “There are [several forms of] proof and facts that voting abroad will be held in a fair and precise way. We took all measures can be taken in,” he added.