Taking the Pulse in Lebanon
By Danielle Yvette Demers
The usually bustling city of Beirut experiences a strange lull today, as Lebanese residents travel to their hometowns to vote in the much awaited Parliamentary Elections. Since polls opened at 7am, voters have been congregating throughout the tiny country to cast their ballots for candidates from a myriad of political parties. Despite tensions, at closing time no major disruptions have occurred at polling sites. In downtown Beirut, voters can still be seen making their final decisions, while party affiliates make their persuasions known from street corners and by driving by waving flags and posters.
In some areas, slow or disorganized processes have discouraged voters. In Hamra, Sawt Ashabab reporters confirmed that citizens were waiting upwards of 3 or 4 hours to cast votes. Some believed that this was a deliberate attempt to drive away votes, while in Tarik Jdideh strict police control was largely to blame. Police and army presence has been greatly increased in the days preceding the election, and special attention has been paid to protecting key areas of interest such as Parliament and Electricity Liban.
Some voters experienced marginalization at the polls on the basis of their real or perceived religious and political persuasions. In Hamra, one woman described how once she was discovered as being Sunni, she was sent to the back of the line. She was denied access at several intervals, while witnessing people of different religions being shepherded towards the voting booth.
Despite these discouragments, spirits remain nervous but hopeful as the public awaits the election results, which may be released as early as midnight. As dusk falls on the Mediterranean, one can see Lebanese begin to move about the city, all sporting thumbs covered in purple ink.