The decision to cancel the six MP expatriates’ seats and move up election day from May 8 to March 27 had the whole Lebanese diaspora feeling outraged. Ever since expatriates acquired the right to vote in the Lebanese Parliamentary Elections from abroad, granted by President Michel Aoun and (then) Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil in 2017, they became more involved in helping their homeland, improving its economy, and partaking in its political decision-making. In fact, the law had included a 16th district for expatriates (in addition to the traditional 15 in Lebanon) allowing them to have six Members of Parliament from Australia, North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. However, on October 19, the majority of Lebanon’s political elites decided to change the voting law and diminish the expatriates’ right of representation in the Lebanese Parliament to just voting in their (Lebanese) districts. Many expatriates were angered by this decision, especially after MP Pierre Bou Assi downplayed the expatriates’ right for representation by stating that Lebanese people living abroad are mostly interested in Kibbeh and Tabbouli, and not particularly concerned about politics and voting.
The claim that expatriates will vote for 128 Members of Parliament is simply propaganda. According to the amended law, expatriates will only be able to elect candidates in their (Lebanese) districts, and not all 128 as it is falsely purported. Furthermore, moving the date up to March 27 creates a new obstacle in cold countries where inclement weather might deter voters from exercising this patriotic right, in addition to the date falling during the Christian season of Lent. The elections had been previously scheduled to take place during the month of May (tentatively the 8th), closer to the summer—AFTER Easter and the holy month of Ramadan (fasting month for Muslims).
Many officials are propagating that the March 27 date is a successful call for “Early Elections”. Noteworthy is the fact that regardless of the date when elections are held, the Parliament term will not be decreased at all, not even by as much as one day. Subsequently, the proposed amendments are nothing but an attempt to control the trajectory of the elections and compromise the rights (and voices) of millions of Lebanese people living abroad.
Even though President Aoun has the power to veto this decision, the same Parliament can overturn his ruling after a period of time—A typical diminution of the president’s power brought about by the 1990 Taef Accord. In addition, the Free Patriotic Movement has expressed its intention to appeal theses changes at the Constitutional Council in order to restore expatriates’ rights.
In the meantime, expatriates are not wavering. As they await a final ruling and a definite election date, they continue to register, hoping to replicate (and surpass) the 2018 voting experience from outside Lebanon.
source lebanon is free