Yesterday I joined the rest of Lebanon and made my mark in the municipal elections - thanks to my credit-card-like Lebanese ID (or tizikra - I love the word!). Driving up to the village where my grandfather came from (you have to vote in your town of ancestry), we passed lamppost upon lamppost displaying a picture of the elect.
In Daraoun, the village where we come from, a great milestone was reached this election, with a group of people standing together to form one list. Usually there's a strong X leader and a strong Y leader (the two prominent families in the village) and people either vote for one or the other. This time they created a coalition, hoping it would mean that if they agreed on who they wanted in their team, then the villagers wouldn't have to vote. But then some independent people stood against them and we had to take to the 'polls'.
I say polls in inverted commas because it looked more like a cafe vibe to me than an official gathering - that's if you take away the army guys presiding over the proceedings with their usual long rifles by their sides. In the 15 minutes that we were there, I must have seen about 80 boxes of sandwiches being carried in for the officials and the voters to enjoy. And there was ahwe on offer and a lot of milling around after the vote to chat to friends and fellow villagers. The one official had so much food stuffed in his mouth, that he had to use sign language to tell me to pass him my thumb. Well, that's what I understood - but he actually wanted my tizikra.
You enter the various rooms (depending on your family's number) one at a time, with men and women using separate rooms (!), and then give your name for about 15 people (one representing each of the candidates) to mark off on their papers with rulers and highlighters, as if they were marking you present at school, with some not hearing properly and calling out to ask the name again, and then asking the father's name too - all a bit chaotic, like asking for orders in a restaurant kitchen. My full name in Lebanon is my first and second name plus my father's first and second name, and then only my surname. Quite a mouthful! One of the officials even piped up to ask if I was my mother's daughter.
I was given an envelope to take into a curtained-in booth. I was expected to write the names of the candidates that I wanted on a paper, place it in the envelope and drop it in a box before going through the same procedure to vote for a mokhtar (town registrar of sorts). Problem: everything was written in Arabic, and I don't read or write Arabic. So I couldn't see which names I wanted to write on the paper. But: clever tall uncle had foreseen such a pickle of a situation and had slipped the Arabic-written list of names I was to vote for into my pocket. I slipped my home-written list into the envelope and made a difference in my forefathers' village. As it turns out, the independent candidates never came in, so all of my guys are going to be ruling the lovely village of Daraoun. Great (I think). I've never been one to understand politics, so maybe it's best to vote blindly.
My list (I think!)