BEIRUT — Yesterday’s parliamentary elections featured a relatively low turnout of 41.04 percent, according to semi-final figures issued by the Ministry of Interior last night, which exclude 60 polling stations that had not yet submitted turnout numbers.
Voter apathy, the burden of transportation to distant polling places that can be hours away from where the voter lives, and a decision by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to boycott the elections have all been cited as possible factors in the low turnout.
Hariri supporters in Tariq al-Jadideh gained attention yesterday by setting up an inflatable swimming pool as a symbol of their indifference to the polls being held that did not feature their preferred candidate or his party.
Initial results suggest that a so-called “Hariri effect” may explain part of the low turnout. An analysis by L’Orient Today found an apparent inverse relationship between the percentage of Sunni registered voters in a district and participation rates.
The heavily Sunni minor districts of Beirut II, Minyeh, Dinnieh, Tripoli, and West Bekaa-Rashaya all saw lower than average turnout whereas several minor districts with relatively small Sunni populations such as Keserwan, Jbeil, Nabatieh, Baalbek-Hermel, and Batroun saw higher than average turnouts.
However, Sunni participation tells only part of the story.
While districts with large Sunni populations tended to have average to below-average turnout, the same was true of several districts with small Sunni populations. Beirut I, which is 10.55 percent Sunni, was virtually tied with majority-Sunni Tripoli in terms of turnout. Bsharri, Koura, and Zgharta all featured lower turnout than Beirut II, Akkar, and Saida.
You can explore the relationship between the two factors for yourself in our interactive below: