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05.02.22

The Lebanese Diaspora and the Upcoming Elections: Lessons From the 2018 Voting

Georgia Dagher

The 2022 parliamentary elections will be the first electoral test at the national level since the October 2019 mass protests and the August 4, 2020 Beirut blast. The recent and ongoing wave of emigration triggered by the economic crisis has increased the number of eligible Lebanese voters abroad, who have been the target of several mobilization campaigns by diaspora groups.

As many Lebanese were pushed to leave their country by a political class that has driven the country into its most severe crisis, a sense of hope about the diaspora helping vote the established sectarian parties out has emerged. This hope is premised in part on a widespread assumption that the Lebanese diaspora is able to vote freely, given that they do not benefit from clientelist services, are not the target of vote buying, and do not suffer from intimidation and pressure to vote in a certain way. However, questions abound whether the diaspora’s political leanings are fundamentally different from that of the population in Lebanon.

After all, a large part of the diaspora are emigrants who left during the Lebanese civil war, and many may still support the old sectarian political parties. Other emigrants are individuals who have left their families behind in search for better opportunities, and their families, who are still in the country, may not fall outside clientelist networks. While no recent figures on the political preferences of the Lebanese diaspora exist, a look at their choices in the 2018 parliamentary elections—the first time out of country voting was allowed—offers some insights on their role in Lebanese elections and potential to vote the establishment out in the May 2022 elections.

In seeking to study the voting behavior of the Lebanese diaspora in 2018, this study uses the official elections results published by the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, disaggregated by polling station1 . We collected the results at the polling station level and extracted the information of voters, such as district of origin, country, and city of residency.

 

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