After Lebanon’s Collapse, Can an Election Fix the Country?

BEIRUT, Lebanon — After years abroad working as a school administrator, Anahid Jobanian returned to Lebanon to live off her savings for a simple retirement.
But that plan fell apart as the country collapsed.
Lebanon’s banks imploded, wiping out her savings. Prices for nearly everything soared, leaving her struggling to afford her heart and diabetes medications. And since the state almost entirely stopped producing electricity, much of the money she received from relatives abroad went to a generator to keep her power on.
“It’s like we are back to the Stone Age,” said Ms. Jobanian, 70.
So when she cast her vote in parliamentary elections on Sunday, her one goal was to vote against the political elite she accused of ruining the country.
“There must be a change,” she said.
It is hard to overstate how much worse life has gotten for the average citizen since Lebanon’s last parliamentary election, in 2018, and how little the country’s political elite have done to cushion the blow.
The vote is the public’s first opportunity to formally respond to their leaders’ performance, so at stake is not only who wins which seats, but the larger question of whether Lebanon’s political system is capable of fixing its many dysfunctions.
At polling places on Sunday around Beirut, the capital, few voters thought it was, at least in the short term…
Many Lebanese who have the means have already left the country, and many more are seeking ways out. A recent poll by the research group Arab Barometer found that 48 percent of Lebanese citizens were seeking to emigrate. For those 18 to 29, the percentage rose to 63 percent, the poll found.
Fares Zouein, who owns a Beirut sandwich shop, said he intended to vote for his local political boss, whom he refused to name, because the man uses his position to help the neighborhood.
“That’s our problem in Lebanon: If you don’t have someone to help you, you’re stuck,” said Mr. Zouein, 50.
He, too, had little faith that the election would make life better.
“This is why everyone in Lebanon has three goals in life: to get a second passport, to open a bank account abroad, and to send their children abroad for school,” he said.
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