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Jan 30, 2005 12:31 pm


THE LEBANESE DIASPORA HAS A POINT



"I Want to Vote in May: The (Denied) Right to Vote for Lebanese Expatriates, argues Joseph Hitti:

As we watch millions of ordinary Iraqis vote freely for the first time in their history, I cannot but contrast the process with that of Lebanese elections. Iraqis in Iraq are voting in their first ever parliamentary elections, and that is an unimaginable achievement that is likely to reverberate in neighboring Syria and elsewhere in the Arab World. But the Lebanese people have always voted (since the 1920s), except for a 20-year interruption caused by the Syrian occupation.

Still, the more striking fact in the Iraqi elections is that they are truly universal, which means that every Iraqi, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion or place of residence, can vote if he or she so chooses. I emphasize the specific criterion of"place of residence" because the Lebanese have been voting since the 1920s, including women who obtained the right to vote in 1952 (before many European countries granted women that right), except those Lebanese living outside of Lebanon who still cannot vote. Yet, thousands of miles away from Baghdad, Mosul and Basra and all the other Iraqi cities and provinces, millions of Iraqi expatriates living abroad, from Detroit and Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., and from Berlin, London and Paris to Amman and Damascus, have voted in these first free elections in Iraq. Even Syrians living abroad can vote in their phony 99.99% elections at their consulates and embassies all over the world to re-elect the despot Bashar Assad and his Baathist ilk. In contrast, Lebanese expatriates still cannot vote.

Lebanon is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections this coming May. According to all indicators and sources, those are likely to be the first free elections since 1972 because the world wants the Syrians out before the elections. There can never be free elections in Lebanon with the Syrians still in the picture, and the process of re- democratizing Lebanon cannot move forward.

I, for one, born and bred in Lebanon and currently living in America, have never voted in Lebanese elections, ever! I came of age after the last free elections were held in 1972, then from war to exile, I was never able to vote in any of the elections held after 1972 because they were never free and Lebanese expatriates were always denied the right to vote in them. I have voted as a US citizen many times, but never as a Lebanese citizen.



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nada boustany - 5/10/2005

Please take note of the following info, taken from
http://openlebanon.org/modules/mypage/lebabroad-pr1.php

Lebanese Expatriates Unite From 139 Countries to Demand their Voting Rights

May 11th 2005: International Day of Solidarity with Beirut Peaceful Demonstrations

Paris, New York, London, Toronto, Berlin, Boston, Sao Paolo- May 11th 2005. On May 11th 2005, thousands of Lebanese expatriates in 139 countries are being urged to communicate with the Lebanese Embassies, Consulates and Foreign Missions to demand their rights to vote from abroad.

The International Committee for the www.lebanese-abroad.com petition is calling May 11th a day of global solidarity with the Lebanese Citizens who will peacefully demonstrate in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut at 12:00 local time, demanding the voting rights of the Lebanese abroad in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Lebanon.

More than 14,000 Lebanese have signed the online petition launched two months ago from Paris. This petition takes ground within the Lebanese Constitution and the Lebanese Electoral Law. The Electoral Law grants full voting rights to all law-abiding Lebanese citizens over the age of 21 whose names appear on electoral lists. Therefore, from a legal perspective, the Electoral Law does not disqualify the Lebanese abroad from participating in the elections.

The current Electoral Law only fails in outlining a mechanism for them to exercise their voting rights directly from abroad. In light of the momentum gathered, and to remedy this minor shortcoming, the petition organizers have carried their plight to Lebanon where a Bill amendment has been recently proposed by a local prominent lawyer, Chibli Mallat. It outlines a simple co-ordination process between Lebanese embassies worldwide and the official holders of electoral lists in Lebanon. In essence, this process mirrors the practices of many other democratic countries that allow their citizens living abroad to vote.

The www.lebanese-abroad.com International Committee is committed to the long term realization of their objective. It is calling on the international community to help support the Lebanese democratic cause by raising the awareness level on this issue, until all eligible Lebanese citizens are allowed to fully exercise their voting rights, free of discrimination.

About the www.Lebanese-Abroad.com International Committee
Founded solely on the principle of citizenship, the www.lebanese-abroad.com initiative is a neutral and independent association of concerned Lebanese citizens who have pledged to remain above and beyond any confessional, cultural, political or ideological differences. The main objective of this association is to obtain an amendment of the Lebanese Electoral Law in order to allow Lebanese citizens living abroad to participate in their country's political life. Among its achievements are the gathering of 14,000 signatures endorsing its petition from 139 countries, and international and local lobby activities aimed at granting all eligible Lebanese citizens their voting rights from abroad.

All Press Contacts: Email: contact@lebanese-abroad.com