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Record-breaking number of women running for Lebanon's parliamentary elections

Lebanon will hold elections this year, the first since 2009 [AFP]

Date of publication: 7 March, 2018

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A total number of 976 candidates registered Lebanon's Spring parliamentary elections this year, including a record-breaking 111 women.

More than 100 women submitted their candidacy for Lebanon’s spring parliamentary elections, reports said on Tuesday, indicating a significant increase in female representation in the country since the 2009 elections.

A total number of 976 candidates had registered for the elections, including 111 women, according to Faten Younis, head of political and refugee affairs at the Interior Ministry, adding that the Beirut II district had seen the largest number of candidates register, at 117.

In comparison, just 12 of the 702 candidates in 2009 were female.

Several public figures, including activists and journalists such as MTV’s Jessica Azar are among the women who registered.

Though the percentage of female participants remains low, the figures have been praised widely on social media as record breaking and a great step forward for Lebanon, indicating a stark difference in attitudes over the years.

Lebanon in December announced that it will hold its first legislative elections in nearly a decade on 6 May 2018.

Politicians had cited security concerns, political crises and a dispute over the election law for postponing the vote and twice-extending their terms, triggering protests.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri's government agreed on a new election law in June but setting a date was held up while officials debated technical details and registered Lebanese citizens abroad. The law was then ratified by parliament. 

More than 90,000 Lebanese citizens living abroad registered to vote last month in the country's first ever parliamentary election that allowed non-resident citizens to vote from their country of residence. 

Lebanese citizens abroad would be able to vote on 22 and 28 April, a first for the country.

The Lebanese diaspora population of 4 to 6 million likely outnumbers Lebanon's domestic citizen population of just over 4 million, but only some 1.2 million diaspora members are thought to have maintained citizenship.

The elections will be held under a proportional voting system never used before in Lebanon, said The Daily Star. 

Under this system, the number of seats won will be proportional to the percentage of votes won by a party, after sectarian quotas are factored in.

This could give a chance for groups from outside the traditional political club consisting of long-standing dynasties and sectarian parties to enter parliament, though critics remain pessimistic about the possibility of radical change.

Lebanon is ranked as partly free by Freedom House.

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