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:
- 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?
- 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?
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.