Beirut (AFP) – A record number of women are among nearly 1,000 candidates who have registered to stand in Lebanon’s first legislative elections in nine years, state media reported on Wednesday.
A total of 976 people announced their candidacies for 128 parliamentary seats before registration for the May 6 poll closed late Tuesday, the state-run National News Agency said.
They include 111 women, the NNA reported, citing the interior ministry which manages elections.
That marks a sharp increase compared with the previous legislative election in 2009 when just 12 women were among 706 candidates who took part.
Among the female candidates are high-profile journalist Paula Yaacoubian, civil society activist and first-time candidate Nayla Geagea, and lawyer and one-time presidential candidate Nadine Moussa.
Lebanon’s political scene has long been divided between a bloc led by Iran-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah and another Saudi-aligned camp headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Sunni politician.
Lebanon recognises 18 official religious sects and its parliamentary seats are divided equally between Muslims and Christians, an arrangement unique in the region.
The May 6 vote will be the first test of Lebanon’s new proportional electoral law which was agreed on in 2017 after years of wrangling among Lebanon’s various political factions.
It replaces the existing plurality voting system with proportional representation and reduces the number of electoral districts to 15.
In each district, seats are distributed among the different religious communities living there.
Competition is expected to be fierce in several areas, including one district in Beirut where 117 people are running for 11 seats.
Candidates must run in lists, which are to be finalised and announced by March 26, and have paid eight million Lebanese pounds (more than $5,000) to register.