Lebanon heads to the polls today amid the worst financial crash in decades as well as deep economic and political instability caused by soaring living costs and political gridlock.
Power outages and hyperinflation, with the Lebanese currency losing 90% of its value, are on the minds of all voters as they head to the polls.
Taha Maassarani has taken over the family home appliance store in Tripoli, northern Lebanon. While his business is doing well, he says the government is not doing anything for people.
“Government, pure government – nothing to blame except government, and most people, because we let them rule us for a very long time. We haven’t seen anything positive from them. Nothing. No development, no education, no childcare. Nothing.”
As Shona Murray points out,
“It is also the first time the Lebanese have voted since the devastating explosion two years ago in the port of Beirut here behind me. More than 20 people have been killed, thousands injured and thousands more have been displaced or lost their livelihoods. People I’ve spoken to say the lack of a full and proper investigation is typical of the inertia of the political system.
“We lost hope, we had some kind of hope, that was two years ago and we still don’t have the answers and we had other explosions in 2005 and others”says Mark Aref, owner of the Alo bebe shop in Tripoli.
The Lebanese political system is complex and based on the division of religions. A voter’s choice of a candidate is predetermined based on their religion and there is little motivation for the parties to work together.
Mark Aref: “Whoever I want to vote for, I can’t vote because of my religion because he doesn’t have the same religion as me.”
Meanwhile, an EU election observation mission has been underway since March to assess the validity of the ballot.