Lebanon's elections begin without incident and with a large turnout

Results not expected to be known before Monday
Lebanese parliamentary elections

PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Lebanese parliamentary elections

Polling stations opened Sunday in Lebanon for more than 3.7 million people called to elect a new parliament, a key day for the future of the country that has begun without serious incidents and with a significant influx of voters.

The polling stations began operating at 07.00 local time (04.00 GMT) in the nation's 15 electoral districts and the process is proceeding peacefully for the moment, amid a heavy security deployment, a military source confirmed to Efe, requesting anonymity.

"The army is participating in the elections directly and indirectly, the entire army without exception, only maintaining security on the border. The rest are participating," the military source said.

In the predominantly Christian Ashrafieh area of Beirut, the polling stations had queues of around 50 people from the opening, while dozens of security personnel stood guard at the gates.

These polls are taking place amid the severe economic crisis that began in the country in late 2019, which has pushed nearly 80 per cent of the population below the poverty line and sent the value of the local currency plummeting by more than 90 per cent.

Voter Mark Keserweini, 39, told Efe he was unhappy with the situation, often perceived as a product of ruling class corruption, and said he was going to vote with a hope for political change.

Una mujer libanesa deposita su voto en un colegio electoral
PHOTO/AFP - A Lebanese woman casts her vote at a polling station

"Do you want to let these leaders stay in power after everything that has happened and everything they have done? (...) There is no more economy, no more fuel and electricity comes one hour a day," he said while waiting for his turn in the capital.

Polls will close at 19:00 local time (16:00 GMT) and results are not expected to be known before Monday, despite the small size of the Mediterranean country and its electorate.

The complex counting system in place takes into account the number of ballots received by the different lists, the "preferential votes" of their members and the confessional distribution that guarantees a pre-assigned number of seats to each of the 18 recognised religious groups.

Among the tasks of the new legislature will be to elect the next president of the Republic at the end of this year and to ratify the composition of the government that will take over the reins of the country after the elections.

The current House is controlled by the Shiite group Hezbollah and its allies, mainly the Shiite Amal party and the Christian Free Patriotic Movement of current Lebanese President Michel Aoun.