Thousands of Lebanese living in nearly 50 countries began early voting in the country’s closely watched parliamentary elections, days after a similar vote was held in 10 predominantly Muslim nations.

It is the second time in Lebanon's history that citizens residing abroad are able to vote for their 128 representatives.
It is the second time in Lebanon's history that citizens residing abroad are able to vote for their 128 representatives. (AFP)

Lebanese expatriates in 48 countries including the United States, Russia, France and the United Arab Emirates have voted ahead of the May 15 parliamentary elections.

More than 194,000 people were registered to vote on Sunday, according to the official National News Agency.

In Paris, long lines were reported outside the embassy, with voting also taking place in Canada and the United States.

On Friday, in an earlier phase, more than 18,000 Lebanese cast ballots in nine Arab states and Iran, with voter turnout reaching 59 percent, a slight increase of two percent from 2018 polls.

The critical election comes amid an unprecedented financial crisis that has spurred a mass population exodus, although while opposition figures have pinned their hopes on the diaspora vote, experts say the political status quo is expected to remain.

The vote is the first since the onset of the economic crisis and the devastating 2020 port explosion in the capital Beirut, with many accusing the political elite of rampant corruption and mismanagement.

READ MORE: Lebanon’s elections: a short guide

Although there are no official figures, Lebanon's diaspora is estimated to be more than double the size of its domestic population of over four million.
Although there are no official figures, Lebanon's diaspora is estimated to be more than double the size of its domestic population of over four million. (AFP)

Prospect of 'change'

"I voted for change," said Abed Saad, who cast a ballot in Dubai, where people queued for up to three hours.

"If we don't vote, others will win, and we don't want them to win," the 27-year-old said, referring to established parties.

But voter registration, while on the rise, remains relatively low among the millions of Lebanese who live abroad.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Abadallah Bou Habib said turnout in Dubai had hit 15 percent in just two hours, with the queue of voters outside the Lebanese consulate stretching for nearly a kilometre despite sweltering heat.

Turnout in 10 mostly Arab countries on Friday was about 60 percent, Bou Habib said, in line with overall turnout in the 2018 overseas vote.

Since 2019, the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90 percent of its value and poverty rates have soared to cover more than 80 percent of the population.

The World Bank has labelled the economic crisis as one of the worst since the mid-19th century. Authorities have repeatedly failed to chart a path out of the crisis.

READ MORE: UN: Lebanon's crisis exposes children to deadly diseases

Source: TRTWorld and agencies