Tuesday, March 31, 2009

International Election Observors

There are many international election observation missions coming to Lebanon and coordination will no doubt be a challenge. However, there is a deceleration of principals for International observer missions that also contains a code of conduct.

International Election Observers for the 2009 elections:

European Election Observation Mission - Observed in 2005.

The EU have kindly published the terms of reference for the core observation team members. Further to this, there is the election observers handbook

Carter Center - First time observer in Lebanon

National Democratic Institute
- Started observation mission in 1996.

Russian Observation Mission (TBC)- First time observer in Lebanon

Arab League Observation Mission

Further to this many smaller observation missions are expected and embassys have also sent observation missions. In 2005 the Canadian embassy sent an observer mission for example.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Armenians and the elections - Part 2

This weekend Tashnak released their electoral list. The candidates are:

George Qassargi to run for the Armenian seat in Zahle, Hagop Bakradonian to run in the Northern Metn, Artur Nazarian for the Armenian Orthodox seat in Beirut’s second district, and Gregore Kalost for the Catholic Armenian and Freij Sabonjain for the Orthodox Armenian seats in Beirut’s first electoral district.

Agop Bakradonian is the only formal member of the Tashnak party who will be running in the Beirut II district (there are two Armenian seats). In this district it has already been agreed that the two Armenian candidates will be split with one going to March 8 and one to March 14.

Importantly there was no mention as to the lists that the candidates would run on. However, it is expected that these candidates will run on a Tashnak list that would leave the door open to both Aoun and Murr.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Lebanese-Armenian Community and the elections - Part 1

This is the first of a series of blogs that will be posted on the Armenian community and the upcoming elections. There has been extensive media coverage (in English see Now Lebanon and the excellent article in the Daily Star) on the Armenian community and the upcoming elections. The focus on the Armenian community has been primarily because the community will play a key role in the Metn where a tight electoral battle is expected between FPM and Kataeb.
Picture by Harout (CC)

The Armenian community in Lebanon:

Incumbent Armenian Politicians:

Beirut 1 and 2

Hagop Kassarjian (Armenian Orthodox, Ramgavar, March 14)

Jean Oghassabian (Armenian Orthodox, Independent, March 14)

Yeghia Djerdjian (Armenian Orthodox, Hanchak, March 14)

Serge Torsarkissian (Armenian Catholic, Independent, March 14)


Hagop Pakradonian (Armenian Orthodox, Tashnak, C&R)


George Qassarji (Armenian Orthodox, Tashnak, C&R)

The political context of Lebanese-Armenians

Traditionally the Armenians, or the dominant party Tashnak, follow a policy of alligning with President of Lebanon. During the tenure of President Lahoud this policy led to significant difficulties with former assassinated Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The troubled relations with Hariri continued with his son, Saad Hariri. In the 05 elections Tashnak and Saad Hariri went head to head. This resulted in Saad Hariri, in the 05 elections, electing 'his' Armenian candidates (in other words the Armenian candidates won their seats through being on Hariri's electoral list and not through Armenian/Tashnak votes). Thus, Tashnak only won two of the six allocated Armenian seats in Lebanon and this was done primarily through an alliance with the FPM as the two winning candidate ran on the Change and Reform electoral list.

The 2007 by-election

Further difficulties with members of the current members of the March 14 coalition occurred in the Ment by-election in 2007. The assassination of Pierre Gemayel (Kataeb, March 14) in 2007 brought a by-election to the Metn. The FPM (affiliated March 8) won this seat from Kataeb after a very close electoral battle that led to tension and minor crowd trouble. According to Tashnak, after the Metn bi-election in 2007, “Amine Gemayel accused the Tashnak of trying to ‘impose its will on the people of Metn’, implying that the Armenians were neither proper Lebanese nor true Christians”

The 2009 elections

Although the difficult relations between March 14 members and the alliance with Aoun in the 2005 elections would seem to mean Tashnak would align with the FPM this is not necessarily the case. The principal reason being: the Armenians historical policy of following the President; not wanting to be with one political bloc; the desire to establish their own parliamentary bloc. These reasons necessitate that they situate themselves in the middle of Lebanese political system. Further to this, according to anaylsts interviewed by the the Daily Star, the transnational nature of the Armenian community means that there are Armenians in Syria that appear to want to push Tashnak towards March 8 and American Armenians that have reportedly want to push Tashnak towards March 14 (see Daily Star).

Enter Michel Murr who exited an alliance with FPM and has opened a delicate partnership in the Metn with March 14 (Michel Murr, father of Elias Murr who is the Defence Minister selected by the President). One possibility is that the Armenians align with the FPM but also put Murr on their list and not his political allies. But if Murr decides to go along with March 14 and they place non-Tashnak candidates on their list for the Armenian seats in the Metn/Beirut I then Tashnak will find it difficult to find a balancing position or be able to form their parliamentary bloc and stop non-Tashnak Armenias supported by March 14 from gaining parliamentary seats. The balancing act in Lebanon's polarized political system will be a immense political challenge. It may well be that the decision will be pushed to the final hour. Tahsnak will no doubt hope to follow in the footsteps of the President they wish to serve.

Monday, March 23, 2009

EU Observation Report 05

10 observations and recommendations that were learned by the EU Election Observation Mission to Lebanon in 2005:

1. The observers stated that the election took place in a peaceful manner and within the existing framework for elections. But stated there was a need for urgent reform of the legal and election framework.

This took place in Doha but did not occur in line with what the EU was suggesting.

2. The debate on money politics was heated. This led to the EU observers calling for greater monitoring of election campaigning and financial disclosure.

This has been followed up by the Lebanese government and for the first time the media will be monitored and the amount of money spent on campaigning limited.

3. Key constitutional provisions have not been implemented, namely a bicameral Parliamentary system that would reduce the role of confessionalism.

This situation has got worse following the 08 Doha accords that created the current electoral law that has increased confessionalism in the electoral system.

4. Voter registration showed serious shortcomings.

This has been a major campaign for the Ministry of Interior and is probably one of the greatest improvements since the 05 elections.

5. Absence of uniform ballots.

Still a major issue in the upcoming election. An issue that Lebanese politicians all agreed was one that needed to be reformed and then voted against reform when the chance came in parliament.

6. Voter should be registered in their actual place of residence.

This is still not the case.

7. Voting should take place on a single day to allow for equal campaigning opportunities.

This has been agreed to and will take place if the elections go ahead.

8. Limitations on electoral rights for the army and police should be abolished.

This is yet to occur.

9. Lower the voting age to 18.

This has just been passed through parliament but will not be implemented in time for the upcoming elections.

10. A independent electoral body should be established to be in charge of all electoral processes.

This has been established in the form of the SCEC (Supervisory Commission on the Electoral Campaign)

The full report: EU Observation Mission 2005

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Voting age lowered to 18 but not until 2010

The Lebanese Parliament has agreed to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. It has been confirmed that the amendment to the law will take place in time for 18 year olds to vote in the 2010 Municipality elections. However, for the upcoming 2009 elections the voting age will remain at 21.

Parliement vote on lowering voting age to 18

Today MPs will vote in decisive legislative session on whether to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. However, even if parliament votes for the change it is highly unlikely that all the measures needed to implement the law would be able to be completed before the upcoming 2009 election. As lowering the age to 18 would need a constitutional amendment and below, a briefing document from IFES, illustrates the elongated process of consitutional amendment in Lebanon.

IFES Briefing Note on Amending Constitution 29 Nov 07 IFES Briefing Note on Amending Constitution 29 Nov 07 deensharp A IFES briefing paper on the process that has to be undertaken to amend the constitution.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lebanon's Main Political Parties

The Main Lebanese Political Parties The Main Lebanese Political Parties deensharp A basic guide to the main Lebanese political parties in Lebanon; a list of the main factions; the Lebanese government and cabinet.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March 14 Launch Electoral Platform

March 14 have launched a 14 point plan for the elections:

1. The protection of Lebanon from Israeli attacks and the retrieval of Shebaa Farms through the full execution of Resolution 1701.

2. The imposition of the state authority over all its lands according to the Taёf Accord so that “there are no weapons besides those of the state’s”

3. The termination of the disagreement with Syria which adopted since 1974 the policy of military neutralization and establish normal and friendly ties with it according to the Taёf Accord and common interests. This requires the termination of Syrian intrusion in Lebanese affairs and the continuation of diplomatic ties and the demarcation of borders between the two states starting from Shebaa farms. This also requires settling the issue of Lebanese prisoners in Syrian jails and the termination of military bases located outside Palestinian refugee camps but is under Syrian operatives. Reconsidering unjust agreements made during the Syrian tutelage era will also be required.

4. To keep Lebanon in harmony with the international community based on the UN charter and the international resolutions, as well as avoiding any confrontation with the international community for sectarian reasons contradicting its effective interest and for tensed slogans that does not reflect its pluralism, and to reactivate coexistence in Lebanon.

5. Getting back the traditional role of Lebanon among Arab countries contributing to the achievement of an Arab solidarity that is the first condition for the Arabs to have their rights, and the commitment to support the Palestinian people’s struggle and unity under the leadership of the PLO to attain an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital, following the “two states” solution and the Arab peace initiative.

6. The full commitment to refuse the resettlement of the Palestinian brothers in Lebanon, and approving the law project for a constitution amendment proposed by March 14 MPs regarding this subject 6 months earlier and that requires the unanimity of the parliament in order to amend the constitutional article of the resettlement.

7. The completion of the establishment of the state and its institutions, after the charter of coexistence, with the application of the Taef agreement and the constitution, reaching a democratic state that ensures equality between the citizens in rights and duties despite their sectarian affiliation. The initiation of a new electoral law reducing the electoral age to 18.

8. To commit to the requirements of the international tribunal for Lebanon to unveil the truth and to establish justice, immunizing Lebanon’s sovereignty, putting an end to the political assassinations.

9. Procure the necessary moves insuring the comeback of all displaced finalizing the file completely.

10. Protecting Lebanon and the Lebanese from the world financial crisis, preserving the monetary stability, keeping the inflation at law rates, and to profit from Paris 3 conference.

11. To commit to economical, financial and monetary policies in all fields and throughout Lebanon, eliminating the inconvenient in front of investments giving the priority to projects insuring quality job opportunities to the Lebanese.

12. Giving a bigger role to the woman in the social, economical and political life, and to enable the woman legally after law amendments especially that of the elections.

13. To commit to the Lebanese expatriates in the world supporting the independence of Lebanon, its sovereignty and prosperity, ensuring they have the same duties and rights as the local inhabitants, giving them the opportunity of investing and working in Lebanon.

14. Giving additional care to the environmental issues in Lebanon with a national strategy to apply the laws regarding this subject.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The New Electoral Districts

The new election law states that there are now 26 electoral districts as opposed to 14. The new election law set districts based on the administrative boundaries (or Qadas) that were adopted in the 1960 Election Law. But this election is not using the 1960 election law itself just the Qada system.

Pictured: The new electoral districts

Assessment of the Electoral Framework

Assessment of the Electoral Framework is a fascinating report published by Democracy Reporting International and the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) published in December 2008.

The document highlights the pros and cons of the new electoral law that was introduced in Sept 08.

To be kind and start with the positives the law has improved, according to the report, the following:
1. Additional safeguards against electoral fraud such as transparent ballot boxes and inking of fingers.

2. Holding of elections in one day

3. Detailed regulation of campaign financing and media coverage

4. Oversight by supervisory commission SCEC (Supervisory Commission on the Electoral Campaign) - however, the report questions how effective this commission in the Lebanese political context.

The negatives of this new law are seen as:
1. Most serious negative aspect is the ballot paper. On the left is a prepared ballot paper, the most common type of ballor paper, for the Baabda-Aley district in the 2005 election that was given out to voters. Voters can cross out who they don't want to vote for and write in the name of their alternative choice. However, as can be seen this ballot paper does not leave much room for such choice. Thus, as the report states the issue of introducing an offical ballor paper is the most glaring omission in the new law. In some cases, the report states, napkins have been used as ballot papers.
(All this is despite politicians promising that they would introduce an official uniform ballot paper. However, when it came to vote in parliament those that said they would vote for change did quite the opposite.)

2.The report also states that becuase the new law accentuates confessional differences this system is "increasing the long-term potential for conflict in the country."

3. The security environment remains a concern.

To read the report in full:www.democracy-reporting.org/index.html

Key election dates from the Lebanese electoral law

SUNDAY 7th JUNE - 07:00 Opening of polls (Art. 80 (1))
19:00 Closing of polls (Art. 93)

Thurs 6th June - Prohibition of media coverage of election campaigns (Art. 73)

Thurs 28th May - Prohibition of opinion polling (Article 74(4))

Wednesday 8th April - Deadline for the registration of candidates. If only one candidate is declared for a seat he/she is declared the winner (Article 49(1))

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Election Campainging and Facebook

Facebook is going to be an instrumental campaigning tool in this election. In the virtual campaigning world most candidates will revert to the use of facebook rather than websites or other mediums. The use of facebook in the Lebanese elections has already began to show its prominence with many candidates setting up profile pages, facebook groups and events.

The role of facebook in this election will be continued to be looked at in this blog.

A Diamond in the Sun (http://adiamondinsunlight.wordpress.com/) has given a interesting commentary on the sort of campaigning on the internet Lebanese politicians are expected to carry out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Video spot for Voter registration (English subtitles)

This video was done by the Interior Ministry to encourage, for the first time, people to check the voter registration.

Voter Registration

For the first time in Lebanon, the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities has launched a media campaign to raise awareness of the voter registration process.

The campaign intends to spread awareness of the public’s right to check their details on the voter register.

Between 10 February and 10 March, the Election Law provides that all Lebanese citizens have the right to check whether they are correctly included on the voter register before it is published on 30 March.

The outreach campaign by the Ministry, created by IFES and Impact BBDO, encouraged public inspection of the voter register is important through high profile TV and radio spots as well as newspaper adverts and flyers.

Further to this, the Minister of Interior H.E. Mr. Ziyad Baroud sent a personal reminder through a text message to 500.000 mobile phone users and 1.8 million emails throughout Lebanon of the importance of checking their details on the voter register.

The Lebanese Electoral System

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), for whom I am the Communication Associate, has just released a briefing paper explaining and outlining the Lebanese electoral systems. The paper can be found at http://www.ifes.org/publication/56c0cdaa64aa2cad85b3f5996e37cb4c/IFES_Lebanon_ESB_Paper030209.pdf

Information included:

1. The Lebanese Parliament: confessional seats
2. Lebanon’s Electoral Districts
3. Beirut’s Electoral Districs
4. Distribution of parliamentary seats by confession and district
5. Core Elements of the Lebanese Electoral System
6. The Electoral System in practice: the example of Baabda
7. Lebanese Ballot Papers and Electoral Lists: an overview

Disability and the Electoral process

Here is an article I have just written for IRIN on disability and the electoral process:


Virtual elections

Here is a great couple of electoral maps:



Thursday, March 5, 2009

Elections and the internet

The new electoral law that was signed post-Doha accords not only put a limit on campaign spending at 150LP million, with an added variable that depends on the number of voters within the electoral district determined by the Council of Ministers but also stated that the private and public media wishing to take part in electoral advertising should create “a price list and information on the “spaces” it intends to consecrate for electoral advertising and promotion”. What is so interesting about the new electoral law and electoral campaigning is that the dawn of the internet is ignored. All references to the law refer to “radio, TV or printed media”. In Lebanon according to the International Telecommunication Union 24% of the country now have access to internet; the role the internet will played in 2005 was relatively important, the 2009 elections will see the World Wide Web move center stage. No doubt after these elections there will be calls for regulation as spam mail, abusive rumors spread through the web and website are increasingly set up through the internet. However, those trying to regulate the internet will find that it is just as possible as trying to regulate the politicians.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lebanese Youth and Democracy

In Lebanon the debate over whether the voting age should be lowered from 21 to 18 has been prominent in the lead up to the general elections in June of this year. Despite the debate ending in paralysis and the voting age remaining at 21; the drive to lower the voting age to 18 continues with the 2010 municipal elections targeted. Nahwa al-Muwatiniya (NA-AM) a local Lebanese NGO and, with the assistance of IFES, in their project Baddi Koun Mas’oul is ensuring that if the voting age is lowered then the youth are not left subservient to the Lebanese electoral system. NA-AM through their project Baddi Koun Mas’oul is educating and empowering students across the country through informing them of their rights and duties with regard to voting and educating them about the democratic process.

The Baddi Koun Mas’oul project is structured into a four to six hour session and is done with a group of roughly 50 students that are 16 to 17. These students are taken through a nine step process that takes them through the different aspects of the democratic process. Within this nine step process the students are introduced to different democratic ideas such as the difference between a majority and proportional electoral system. The students are also informed of their rights and duties as responsible citizens within the context of the democratic system and the ethical standards required for the integrity of the electoral procedure. Students then learn about more technical issues concerning elections that include: election administration, observation and media regulations. The program is being rolled out in 52 state schools across the country in both rural and urban areas.

In the village of Diddeh based in Northern Lebanon, 53 excited 16 year olds listened to Tamim Bou Karroun, the Project Coordinator for Nahwa al-Muwatin. Bou Karroun and six trainees organized the students into groups to form the election administration body two observer teams and three political parties. The youth quickly arranged themselves into their different parties that they then named and debated about what their demands would be. The three parties they formed were Reform and Future, Our Voice and Black Hand. Demands were made such as: refurbishing the school, realizing student needs and teaching more foreign languages apart from English, Arabic and French that are already on offer! After the nominated spokesperson from each party read out the demands, the youth were then were ready to vote for who they wanted to elect. “We do two elections for the youth to show them the difference between a proportional election system and a majority,” said Tamim Bou Karroum. Election booths were set up with the help of a black curtain and some sticky tape while the electoral administrators ensured that each voter was registered, allowed to vote in private and ticked off the electoral list. After all the votes were in each vote was read out, accompanied by much excitement as to who would win. In the end it was a tie with each party gaining one seat each and three votes being cancelled.

As Nahwa al-Muwatiniya continues this project to other schools across the country it is allowing hundreds of pupils to gain their first real exposure to the culture and process of democracy. While it is likely that many of the students involved in this project will not get the chance to vote until they are 21; Baddi Koun Mas’oul is preparing the ground if the law is changed by ensuring that the very people whom this law may apply to are made aware of what it means to be engaged in the electoral process. Most importantly Baddi Koun Mas’oul is engaging young people in the process of democracy and embedding the concepts that come with the democratic process. Nahwa al-Muwatiniya through Baddi Koun Mas’oul is building a firmer foundation within the youth of the democratic process, from which Lebanon will hope, to build a stronger democratic system.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hezbollah launch electoral campaign

Hezbollah's Shiekh Qassem on Sunday launched the electoral campaign for the party. "We consider these elections to be important, but not fateful," Sheikh Naim Qassem told a news conference.