First Democrats Abroad in Arab world hopes to mobilize voters, make a change, founder says
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - By the time Democrats living in Lebanon begin voting Wednesday, Super Tuesday will be history.
Nevertheless, the more than two dozen registered voters in the first Democrats Abroad chapter in the Arab world hope they will eventually have a say in the politics back home and bring about change in U.S.
«The aim is to mobilize people so that both Democratic and Republican parties will realize that Americans living in the Arab world are an important constituency and that their interests should be taken seriously,» said Eugene Sensenig-Dabbous, founder of DA's Lebanon chapter.
The overseas group was formed Jan. 17, becoming the first officially recognized branch of the U.S. Democratic Party in the Arab world. There are only two others in the Middle East _ in Turkey and in Israel.
Created first in London in 1964, Democrats Abroad is an official organization of the Democratic Party for U.S. citizens living permanently or temporarily abroad. The organization is given state-level recognition by the Democratic National Committee. DA currently has members in more than 100 countries, with more than 30 country committees.
Sensenig-Dabbous, a professor of political science at the private Notre Dame University, said the newly formed Lebanese group was too late to participate in midterm Congressional election, but was created just in time to begin preparations for the general election this fall.
The group is also organizing a primary in Beirut for Super Tuesday, but voting will be held Wednesday evening because of the time difference _ Beirut is seven hours ahead of Eastern Time.
DA Lebanon members will meet at a bar in Beirut's trendy Gemayzeh Street, watch recordings of live coverage of the primaries and discuss preparations for November election. Computers will be set up for those who wish to vote through the Internet. Half of the group's 64 members have registered to vote in the primary _ «not a bad start,» according to Sensenig-Dabbous.
«Our goal is to get the Democratic Party to become aware that the American citizens living in the Arab world are a force to be reckoned with,» said the Lancaster, Pennsylvania native who is married to a Lebanese.
Sensenig-Dabbous believes there are some 50,000 U.S. citizens in Lebanon, 20,000 of whom are registered voters. They are mostly people with dual Lebanese-American but others include Americans working for NGOs and relief agencies.
Sensenig-Dabbous, an active member of DA in Austria for 20 years before moving here in 1999, says it is ironic that American expatriates and Lebanese-Americans living in Lebanon will be voting in the U.S. election, while Lebanese living in the U.S. cannot vote in their own elections.
He hopes the DA Lebanon voting would serve as a role model for the region and influence countries like Egypt, Jordan and even Palestinian territories. «The aim is to create a bridge between Americans in the Middle East and the people from the Middle East living in America,» he added.
LINK to Democrats Abroad
Interesting Read: "For Whom Should Arab Americans Vote"? by Ghassan Rubeiz