Lebanese nightclubs to shut on eve of elections to boost voter numbers

  • Nightclubs in Lebanon will be shut down on the night of the 5th of May.
  • Beirut’s main nightlife areas are the Hamra and the Mar Mkhayel districts.

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s famous booming nightlife will be silenced on Saturday night, the eve before the country is set to vote for a new parliament, a statement issued by the Lebanese Internal Security Forces read.

“Based on Interior Minister Nohad Al-Machnouk’s decision, nightclubs will be shut down on the night of the 5th of May,” the statement said.

Lebanon is known for its nightlife, and has been described as a top destination for party-goers around the world by style magazine GQ.

Restaurants and bars must be closed by 1 a.m.
“We aren’t going to close completely, but we’ll be shutting down by 1 a.m. as per the government’s decision,” Sleiman, a bartender at Neighbors, a pub in Beirut’s Hamra district, told Arab News.

“I’m personally going down to vote, and I hope people won’t be too tired from drinking too much the night before to go down and vote,” he added.

Omar, a manager at one of Mar Mkhayel’s rooftop bars Stairway, predicted that most places would be empty by midnight on Saturday.

Beirut’s main nightlife areas are the Hamra and the Mar Mkhayel districts, as revellers meet at watering holes on Friday and Saturday nights. However, this weekend could be different as citizens feel a social responsibility to vote.

“I’m going to stay in on Saturday night and take it easy,” Yara, a 22-year old student at the Lebanese American University, told Arab News, adding: “We go out to and party every weekend, one weekend off won’t hurt — especially if it’s for a good cause.”

But it remains to be seen whether Yara’s words, which are typical of the statements being made by many in the Lebanon, are borne out in voter turnout figures.

Turnout in Lebanese elections is notoriously low. In the 2009 elections, 53 percent of the over 3 million registered voters placed their ballots, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).

While a passion for clubbing may not be the reason for this, many argue that a lack of trust in the candidates and confusion surrounding the electoral law were behind the low figures.

As Nathalie, an accountant, told Arab News in an earlier interview: “People aren’t going to go vote — you will have those who are like sheep who will go down to vote, but if they have principles they won’t because the candidates nominated are not better than those stepping down.”

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