As I said before, many Lebanese don’t really have much of a choice when it comes to voting in Parliamentary elections, due to sectarian gerrymandering. As a result, some young people I’ve spoken to have made it a point to go out and vote, if only to voice their frustration with a process that doesn’t offer them anyone whom they feel actually represents them. That is to say that they go out only to put in a blank list in the ballot box (you have to bring your own).
One group of feminists here even did a spoof of the Aounist ad, “Sois belle et vote,” (Be beautiful and vote) telling everyone to “Sois intelligente et vote blanc” (Be smart and vote blank).
I was introduced to voting blank when I first moved to France some ten years ago, and could never make up my mind if it was a good idea or not. I remember thinking that it wasn’t such an effective strategy when Le Pen made it into the second round of the presidential elections by beating Jospin to find himself in a runoff with Chirac. In any case, I’ve always wondered if the blank votes are counted and if anyone takes any notice. So as a public service, I’ve gone through the official elections results, which breaks down the count by number of registered voters, number of votes cast, percentage of turnout, invalid votes and blank votes (click the table for a pdf version):
There are some problems with the official results, which seem to be typos made by the Ministry of the Interior, so for some districts, the information is missing or zero. The figures highlighted are estimates that I was able to extrapolate, generally when there was a figure for number of registered voters and a percentage for turnout, but a zero given for the number of votes cast. When they gave zeros for number of votes cast, there were generally zeros given for invalid and blank votes also, which I can’t extrapolate, so I put n/a for those values.
On average, about 0.7% of the votes cast were blank. Of these, the Druze seemed to be most likely to vote blank, with Aley (1.7%) and the Chouf (1.6%) having the highest percentage of blank votes trailed slightly by Bint Jbeil (1.5%). All in all, the protest vote doesn’t sem to have been too much of a factor, and in many cases, it was roughly equal with or even lower than the number of invalid votes. I’ve taken a quick look at the closest races, and as far as I can see, there isn’t an instance when the number of blank votes could have made a differenec in the results. So the question remains, is it intelligent to vote blank? Take a look at the numbers and tell me what you think.
And speaking of protest votes, good ole Pierre Hashash got a grand total of 61 votes in Tripoli.