Beirut, May 6: Polling stations opened across Lebanon on Sunday for the first parliamentary elections in almost a decade. The last elections in the country took place in 2009, for what was supposed to be a four-year term, reports the BBC. But parliament extended its term twice due to instability in neighbouring Syria and to reform the country's electoral laws.
Hezbollah is seeking to increase its parliamentary representation. Voting for all 128 seats will continue till 7 p.m. official results are not expected until Monday or Tuesday, but analysts expect early details to emerge on Sunday night. Tens of thousands of Lebanese citizens living aboard have already cast their votes earlier this week - the first time such expatriate voting has been allowed.
The change is due to the new electoral system being used, the BBC reported. It also reduces the number of districts and uses a list-based proportional system for voting, with seats distributed among the various Christian and Islamic groups. Lebanon has long had a power-sharing political system between the different religious denominations. The number of seats in parliament is split between Christians and Muslims, and the president, prime minister, and speaker of the parliament must each come from a specific religious background.
The European Union said it has deployed election observers to all of Lebanon's voting districts. Major issues facing the newly-elected parliament include the fate of a large number of refugees who have entered the country since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, and continuing economic difficulties.