Lebanese Expatriate Voting. How to Take Part in it.

I started this morning the process of registering to vote in the 2013 Lebanese Parliamentary elections. I figured I’ll share here some info and tips that you might find useful if you too are planning to vote. I’ll be using a questions and answer format (f.a.q) because I found it the best way to organize the different issues about the subject.

That’s it? Expats can now vote? Is that 100% confirmed?

In Lebanon, there is nothing that is absolutely sure. We still don’t know what will happen in Syria and politicians are still debating the electoral law and alliances. That said, the Lebanese cabinet has approved the resolution on expat voting, the Minister of Exterior said that the logistics for expat voting are complete, and President Sleiman declared that voting will take place “come what may”.

Where should I start?

Do like me. I just walked into my embassy and I was given a form to fill (see picture above). It’s a fairly simple form, but I was told that in order to get the form, my embassy records –documents we filled some time ago that the embassy uses to contact us in cases of emergency– had to be complete.
Once you submit the form, alongside a photocopy of your Lebanese ID and a passport photo, a process will be set in motion for your name to be included in your embassy’s electoral list ( لائحة الشطب ).

Can I trust that my vote will be counted fairly?

Well, Lebanese embassies can sometimes be filled with crooks, and there’s one Lebanese political party that dominates foreign policy and the entire diplomatic corps *cough* Berri *cough*. Moreover, Embassies are not isolated from Lebanon’s sectarian BS and corruption.

That said, I’m fairly sure that competing Lebanese politicians will be doing their best to ensure that the process won’t be rigged. This is why I’m relatively confident that that my vote will be properly counted.

Do I need to read or write in Arabic to vote?

Many in the Lebanese diaspora cannot read or write in Arabic and dread the fact that official Lebanese documents are all in Arabic. This is why I was happy to see that my embassy’s form was in both English and Arabic. I’m assuming this will be the same on voting day.

Will my embassy get in touch and ask me to register?

Some embassies seem to be more active than others. It depends on how large your community is, how vast your country is and how hardworking your ambassador is. The bottom line is that the process has started. So don’t wait for the embassy to contact you, just go there and fill the form.

Why should I start now? The elections are next year

There are two advantages for starting early:

  1. Political parties haven’t started campaigning yet. When they do they will be constantly and aggressively badgering you to register. What better way to get them off your back than to tell them you already did?
  2. The process is highly bureaucratic and involves pushing papers across borders. By registering early you can ensure that your documents don’t get caught up in the last minute frenzy where papers become so many that some are bound to get misplaced.

Can I do it online?

Are you serious? Do you know anything about official Lebanese websites or official Lebanese embassy websites? Of course you can’t

Is there anything I should be aware of:

Yes, you have to know that once you register to vote in your embassy, you can no longer vote in Lebanon that year. So make sure that the voting doesn’t coincide with a trip you’re making to Lebanon.

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7 thoughts on “Lebanese Expatriate Voting. How to Take Part in it.

  1. Elie says:

    Didn’t know about that last point. I’m interested in knowing if an expat’s vote counts for his/her hometown/ district MPs or if there will be some other way to consider them.

    But yeah, start early with the papers. Already got my uncles in the US on it.

  2. Fadi says:

    The law on whether the vote will count in your casa or for selected expat deputies (they are suggesting probably 15 distributed per group of countries) is not yet defined. Neither for locals in fact…

    Personally I prefer that my vote goes in my casa because the vote allocation is not per address in Lebanon so why for the expats, but it seems that for short sighted politicians with direct interest and cost per vote concern, and fear of unpredictability, prefer the expat deputies option.

    In both cases I think expats voting is a major step forward and would love to see it happen either ways.

  3. Shiwa7ad says:

    To say the truth I am extremely skeptical of this step (expat voting). Of course I am all for it, but I really don’t see that happening. Proportionality law seems stuck and 2013 elections are still a big question mark.

  4. Mustapha,
    This is another act of deception by the Lebanese government and you know it. To offer somebody the right to participate in an activity but to make access so difficult is arguably worse than depriving the individual of that right in the first place.
    Why should one have to provide photographs and fill registration forms? The right to vote cannot be taken away from you by making it more difficult to register; its a right of citizenship. Unfortunately the silliness does not stop here, one needs to show up in person at the consulate/embassy, what if the closest consulate is 1500 miles away? That would be similar to giving the people in the Emirates the right to vote provided they come to Beirut lol That is the epitome of discrimination and government deception.

  5. Antidisestablishmentarianism says:

    Lebanese embassies are inefficient bureaucratic shops, and queuing there for hours (probably several times as you are bound to fail to get served the first time and you always forget one paper or something) and having work downtime is just not worth it. It’s not like these votes change anything. In the end, blocs of people with herd mentality and/or as a result of bribery will have predetermined the outcome, not to mention a law tailored by the politicians to ensure their victory. What’s the point?! So that we feel we are part of a democracy that doesn’t really exist?
    Anyway, why can’t one do this by mail? Besides, how much will MEA lose as a result of people not going back to leb to vote? lol

  6. Wael says:

    I’m very skeptical of this Expat. voting. What happens if I register and they ended up not doing it? I will not be able to vote because my name will be deleted from the electoral list in Lebanon.
    Besides, I don’t think Embassies have enough people and logistics to carry this operation. Heck, it takes them 3 months here in Canada to send me an “ikhraj Keid”. Since we don’t have voting ballots where all the candidates name will be written and you just have to check your choice, how will they determine for example that I’m from Tripoli and I should only write the names of the candidates in this district if the voting is supposed to be secret?
    Then, they would have to split and count the votes by districts and send them in time to Lebanon where they’ll need people there to add the votes to each region. I don’t think this will work. Plus, if there is no online/mail voting, I’m not gonna drive 350KM from Toronto to Ottawa and then back to vote. No thanks.

  7. Posh says:

    I second Ghassan Karam. Valid points there.

    But, and however, I think this is much better than nothing at all. Although I’m not sure we’re spoiled for choice, so I probably wouldn’t be making that trip to the embassy to provide photographs and fill registration forms. Which brings me back to Ghassan’s points. Valid.

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