Lebanese-Canadians hope weekend election results in change back home

Ottawa's sizable Lebanese-Canadian community is paying close attention to the results of the weekend election, with turnout high among expats who cast ballots.

'We're at a critical point in shaping the future,' says Ottawa expat

Ahmad Araji, president of the Lebanese Club of Ottawa, hopes people in Lebanon will go out and vote in Sunday's election. (Supplied)

Ahmad Araji is hoping for change in his homeland after Sunday's election. 

"We're at a critical point in shaping the future of our country," said the Lebanese expat, who currently lives in the nation's capital and is president of the Lebanese Club of Ottawa. 

"We've been fighting for a change for a very, very long time. Now the decision and the action is in our hands." 

Lebanon has been through several crises in recent years, including economic devastation, an explosion that destroyed a huge swath of Beirut, and the 2019 revolution. 

This is just the second time Lebanese people living abroad have been able to vote, with Araji and thousands of others casting their ballots last weekend.

In Ottawa, two voting stations were set up to accommodate the large Lebanese diaspora. Araji said more than 60 per cent of local eligible expats voted — a very impressive turnout. 

"I believe and I hope that there is going to be some new faces [elected]," he said. 

A ballot box is carried past people waiting in line in the Lebanese capital of Beirut this weekend, ahead of the country's parliamentary elections. (Bilal Hussein/The Associated Press)

Calls for reform 

Lebanon holds parliamentary elections every four years, electing MPs to 128 seats allocated under a sectarian power-sharing system. 

While there is some hope that Sunday's election will help bring change to the country, Fadi Joseph, an expat living in Montreal, isn't so sure.

"We need to see new faces…[and] not allow anybody who has been involved the last 30 years in any political side to be  [involved in] the election," he said. 

Nour El Kadri, a University of Ottawa professor and president of the Canadian Arab Federation, agrees. 

Nour El Kadri, President of the Canadian Arab Federation, says he expects the upcoming election to be 'disappointing.' (CBC )

The system is notoriously corrupt, El Kadri said, adding he expects the results to be "disappointing." 

There are a few independent candidates, which El Kadri says is a step in the right direction, but one that does not go far enough. He said he wants to see an overhaul of the sectarian system, which allots seats to various religious communities, as it tends to favour established politicians.

"Those optimists that are looking for change are talking about the 10 to 12 seats, at the most, out of 128 seats in the Lebanese parliament," he said. 

"I don't see this change is going to happen unless the Lebanese citizenship takes priority, and everybody becomes patriotic based on what they can offer to their country — as opposed to their sect." 

As for Araji, he has one clear message to the people in Lebanon: go out and vote. 

"Regardless of what your political stance is, go voice your opinion," he pleaded. "Vote for the party that you think matches the ideology of the current new generation who wants to see their government and country prosper and grow."