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January 15, 2021 | 43 Pages | English | Daniel Garrote Sanchez
Understanding Turnout in the Lebanese Elections

Lebanon’s 2018 parliamentary elections, the first in nine years, saw a sizable decrease of voter turnout, with 49.7% of registered voters casting a ballot compared to 54% in 2009. The low participation ran counter to predictions that changes in the electoral law and the introduction of the diaspora vote would increase turnout. This report aims to provide an in-depth analysis of voter turnout in the 2018 Lebanese parliamentary elections, the striking discrepancies across socio-economic cleavages, and the relevant drivers of citizens’ participation. It also sheds light on the changes in turnout rates between the 2009 and 2018 elections. Our analysis shows that in 2018, women and older voters voted more than men and the youth. We also find that Sunni and Alawite voters were the least likely to cast their ballot in 2018, while Shia and Druze voters had the highest participation rates. Turnout also varied across regions, ranging from below 40% in the largest urban centers of Beirut and Tripoli to more than 65% in Keserwan and Jbeil. Some of the key changes that could explain the reduction in voter participation in 2018 were: The sizable increase in first-time voters—given the delay in the latest elections—who had a lower propensity to vote; the fall in turnout among Sunni and Alawite voters who, in many instances, refrained from voting as an act of discontent toward the main sectarian parties; and the increase in the share of confessionally mixed voting centers—from 14% to 23% of voters—which led to lower turnouts.

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