Friday, June 19, 2009

Electoral Reform and Proportional Representation

The most popular politician in the country, if not the region and if Obama was not around who knows... Ziad Baroud has put his full weight behind Proportional Representation (PR).

It is clear that the current electoral system is not politically viable and a entirely new system will have to be adopted. The Boutros Commission proposed a semi-PR system and although rejected for the 09 election will be taken up again and debated for the 2013 election and a form of PR is expected to be used in the 2010 election (for a guide on different electoral systems).

So to PR:
"The principal of PR is that the seats in a constituency are divided according to the number of votes for party lists, but there are considerable variations in how this is implemented," Pippa Norris the election supremo summed up the PR electoral system.

So why are those interested in electoral reform in Lebanon going all starry eyed for PR, as opposed to the current first past the post (AKA plurality)?

Plurality emphasizes governability while PR focuses on the inclusion of the minority voice.

John Stuart Mill has outlined clearly, very shortly after the PR system was proposed, a wonderful defense of its virtues:

"When the individuals composing the majority would no longer be reduced to Hobson's choice, of either voting for the person brought forward by their local leaders, or not voting at all; when the nominees of the leaders would have to encounter the competition not solely of the candidate of the minority, but of all the men of established reputation in the country who were willing to serve; it would be impossible any longer to foist upon the electors the first person who presents himself with the catchwords of the party in his mouth, and three or four thousand pounds in his pocket. The majority would insist on having a candidate worthy of their choice, or they would carry their votes somewhere else."

Was the PR system made for Lebanon I hear...

Positives and negatives of PR in Lebanon:

1. Easing political polarization - PR could allow for independents to come through. For instance if Mouth Lebanon was one district and there were 10 seats if Lebanese Forces and Kataeb got 200,000 votes, Change and Reform 300,000 votes and then lets say Lahoud's Democratic Renewal 100,000 and the newly created "we are going in the center of everything you say party" 100,000 votes and "We are extreme" 100,000. Change and Reform would not win all ten seats as in the plurality system but would receive 3 of the seats, LF 2 and so on (this of course also depends on the type of PR system used). Thus, the system would give representation for all those voters whose votes would have otherwise been 'lost' if it was a first past the post. It would have been easier for a Presidential bloc to have emerged as it would have allowed all 'independents' to run without having to go under a March 8/March 14 list.

2. Creation of national parties but increased sectarianism - If the above system described in Mount Lebanon was done across the nation parties would become a lot more national and not just have political representation, as is the case now, where their supporters are the outright majority. However, becuase political parties in Lebanon are based on confession this would mean that no longer would you vote for a Shia candidate if you were Christian and vise versa. The likely scenario for Lebanon would be the further entrenching of sectarianism with Christians only voting for Christian parties and Sunni for Sunni.... You would not longer get Muslims voting in Christian representatives that has been a major complaint of the Christian community.

3. Rise of extremist parties - While the advantages are that more parties can express their political views and the a fuller plurality of opinion this also comes with the disadvantage that those with more extremist views are not pushed to the center by the main parties. The "We are extreme" party no longer has to make deals with mainstream parties and can now go it alone.

4. Unstable coalitions - As stated at the start PR emphasizes the inclusion of the minority voice where as plurality focuses on governability. Thus, PR could have the potential to weaken an already fragile governmental structure. It is not clear that PR is the best system for inceasing the capacity and strength of the state. You just have to look at Italy and Israel to see how unstable coalitions can be ruinous to the creation of stable governments. Unlikely coalitions are nothing new in Lebanon but having many of these coalitions based on my enemy's enemy.... could be potentially devastating.

A web of complexity awaits the debate about PR that has more forms than Lebanon has cedars...So let the debate begin

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Paying for votes

The Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA) launched its perliminary findings for its finance investigation. Vote buying occurred, according to the LTA, widely in Zahle, Saida, Zghorta, Metn, Batroun and West Bekka. How much was paid for a Vote varied: Saida the price was $60-100; $800 in Zahle and up to $3,000 in Zghorta. The LTA also noted that a large amount of financial abuses were done before the campaign monitoring period began. A full report will be published at the end of the summer.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dispelling Lebanon Election Myths

Previously, I had a go at Noe and Young for contradictions in their analysis. Yet, their contributions in allowing people to understand the Lebanese political context and the elections are important, especially having read the some of the international commentary that is fundamentally wrong. These international commentators have created three central myths around the elections that are deconstructed one by one below. If only international commentators that came to Lebanon for the elections, or not at all, would read more Noe or Young!

1. A solid majority of Lebanese Christians voted against the list of Michel Aoun (as stated by Friedman in his candy floss covered article)

The FPM itself has 10 MPs, which is the same as the LF and Kataeb combined so the FPM is still the largest Christian party. While, the Change and Reform bloc consists of 27 MPs only beaten by the March 14 bloc itself. A solid majority of Christians did not vote against Aoun.

2. A solid majority of all Lebanese — Muslims, Christians and Druse — voted for the March 14 coalition led by Saad Hariri, the son of the slain Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri (again Friedman)

The popular vote went 800,000 for March 8 (and FPM) and 700,000 for March 14. A solid majority of all Lebanese did not vote for the March 14 coalition. This was still a confessional electoral system and the vote was split along confessional lines, except in the Christian areas, thus "all Lebanese" did not vote for March 14.

3.Obama's speech won the elections for March 14 and that the visits by Biden and Clinton persuaded Christian voters to vote for March 14 (Simon Tisdall of the Guardian and many other international commentators)

While, of course this is not very tangible and is a simple matter of opinion I challenge this comment on the basis of where the elections were won:

Zahle that went 7-0 to March 14 a result even the most ardent March 14 supporters were not expecting. The primary reason for this win is the 70% turnout of the Sunni population that occurred because of extensive persuasion by Saad Hariri. I have been told by someone working at the Kataeb offices on election day that Hariri made a call to coax Sunni voters to go out and vote, at around 3pm they came in bus loads. The idea that this exceptional Sunni turnout was becuase they were inspired by the Obama/Biden/Clinton (OBC) brigade to go out and vote in such force is highly suspect.

In Beirut One, the other vital district, it may be more believable that the OBC brigade had an some sort of effect. Personally, I feel it is much more likely that May 7th of last year when Hezbollah took over much of Beirut and the Aoun-Hezbollah agreement over 2006 cost the FPM the five seats in this district.

In both districts and nationally Patriarch Sfeir's last minute intervention on the side of March 14 is seen as having a significant effect in persuading Christian voters to go vote for March 14. But of course for most western commentators this does not fit into the secular-democratic-Obama-miracle that is March 14 against Iran narrative they are constructing.

--This article was edited after a comment corrected a sloppy sentence on the 12th June.

EU Perliminary Statement

The IFES Review

Updated/Modified Statement by NDI

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Analysts a bit confused

Comparing what two analysts were saying before the elections and after you can read some beautiful contradictions:

Up first is the notorious Michael Young:

on April 9th:

Syria will win Lebanon's elections

"Whether it is the March 14 coalition and its allies that wins, or the March 8 coalition with the Aounists, the forthcoming Parliament will be much friendlier to Syria than the current one is, representing a marked return of Damascus' hegemony over Lebanon," Young argued.

Now June 9th:

Lebanon's elections: an early inquest

"Most significantly, the election results were a setback for Syria." Young claimed.

Over to Nicholas Noe:

On May 6th Noe wrote an article entitled: The end of Lebanon's Cedar Revolution: The west must recognise that a Hezbollah victory in elections could force it into responsibility and disarmament.

In the article Noe stated "
Top US officials are apparently content with focusing on the bigger picture of engaging Iran and Syria and leaving Lebanon to the rhetorical purview of staunch March 14 supporters like Jeffrey Feltman, the former ambassador to Lebanon, now assistant secretary of near east policy, who presided over March 14's spectacular rise and fall."

Now June 9th Noe declares:

The US must help Hariri: There are three fronts on which the US can help make the Cedar revolution into a genuine Lebanese revolution.

I must admit however, I was fully convinced that March 8 would win and March 14 was also dead. Unfortunately I do not have quite the platform to make a fool out of myself like Young and Noe!

The Election Results Brokendown

You can get the full breakdown of the election by clicking here.

The interesting bits

The breakdown of the results show that in Beirut One March 14 clearly won by just under 3,000 votes for each candidate. Nayla Tueni received the most amount of votes with 19,985. The voter turnout of Beirut One was only 40% of registered voters which is very low for a district that had such a competitive race but it must be remembered many of these registered voters may not live in Lebanon anymore.

In Zahle Elias Skaff the major traditional political force in Zahle lost by some 4,000 votes, while interestingly Okab Saqr received the most votes in Zahle but is a Shia candidate where the number of Shia are not so numerous. In fact the reason for the March 14 win in Zahle is being put down to the high Sunni turnout in the district. A nice quirk but no more.

Michel Aoun only won his seat by by 2,000 voters in Kerserwan.

In total March 8 won the popular vote by 800,000 to 700,000 but the district system means seats are weighed differently, thus allowing a March 14 victory.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

NDI Observer Mission Statement

I will be publishing all the major observer mission reports on this blog. Here is the first one from the NDI.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hezbollah winners or losers?

The debate is continuing as to whether Hezbollah wanted to win this election or not. Paul Salem gives a very convincing argument that Hezbollah would not really benefit from winning. An argument he makes that I am very much a believer in is why get involved with the Lebanese state when they have a highly effective state of their own? Further to this, Salem makes the point why would they want to get involved in Aoun's desire for the Presidency? This is especially the case when Hezbollah and current President Sleiman have excellent relations.

Hezbollah may have benefited from increased legitimacy domestically and internationally if they had won the elections within the March 8 coalition. Other than this it is very unclear as to what Hezbollah would have benefited from if they had won these elections.

Maybe we will here it all from the man himself as he speaks at 8:30pm tonight.

The Final Result

The most important district of this election was Zahle; the winner of this election missed by all except supporters was the March 14 coalition. March 14 finished with 71 seats (with two independents) and March 8 finished with 58.

Zahle was expected to go to March 8 (and FPM) but instead it was announced that all seven seats went to March 14.

Overall in the Christian districts, where this election was really occurring, the Lebanese Forces, Kataeb and Christian "independents" of March 14 made vital gains in Beirut One, Zahle and Metn, while also maintaining their seats in Batroun.

The FPM although increasing the number of seats in their Change and Reform coalition to 27 from 21 were unable to gain enough to achieve an electoral win for the March 8 coalition.

The Results with Metn and Zahle to come

The results for Zahle and Metn are still to be confirmed. Zahle is expected to go 7-0 to March 14 from information thus far and in the Metn they are expected to win two seats resulting in 71 seats for March 14 and 57 seats for March 8. What a result for March 14!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

March 14 win!! ? Unofficial

It looks as March 14 have won the Lebanese parlimentary elections. Fireworks and horns from March 14 supporters are let off as exit polls reveal themselves. The blogger Qifa Nabki called it first in the world of Twitter as Zahle went March 14 7-0, in the West Bekka 6-0 and Koura 3-0 all upsets for March 8. Reuters qoute a unnamed Hezbollah offical stating "We've lost the election," the source, who declined to be named, told Reuters. "We accept the result as the will of the people."

Election Day @ 7pm Polls Closed

The Polls have closed and without significant incident, although there has been a lot of moaning about long queues at the polling station. Come on!! So all in all at the close of play for the voting process well done Lebanon!

Michel Ghanem on LBC has announced that 32 seats have been guaranteed for the opposition March 8 + FPM and 26 for March 14.

Now let the all important stage of the results begin!

Election Day - upto 5:12pm Beirut Time


The day began at 6am when I set off to Zahle. Going through Sassine in Beirut a heavy military presence was evident. There was a smooth flow of traffic on the way and on arriving at Zahle a military presence was notable at the entrance to the town but not heavily throughout the centre.


In Zahle voters were beginning to trickle through to the polling stations. Support for the two political factions March 8 + FPM and March 14 was highly visible, with supporters handing out their pre-printed ballots to supporters. The town was calm and apart from the chaotic parking and traffic all appeared to be running smoothly. Supporters from both coalitions were both happy however, this was first thing in the morning! Taxis were a noticeable addition to the scenery in Zahle I saw a several Hello Taxis transporting to the party headquarters of Skaff voters who I assume have been brought from abroad to vote.

10:30 am

Made way back to Beirut, again traffic was running smoothly and apart from supporters doing the usual contest with flags and political hand signals (maybe a will provide a guide to these one day!) all was calm.

11:30 am

Went over to the Dahiya to see what is happening in this part of town. All is calm and well organized. On the way going through the old airport road was nice to see Amal and Future supporters mingling (more or less).


Went to Beirut One, Sodeco, and saw that at lot of movement was occurring at Beydoun street. There I witnessed lots of army trying to control a situation between Nadim Gemayel supporters and FPM. Nadim Gemayel's sister (who I do not know the name of so someone please inform me if you know) trying to assist her brother's supporters but was being kept away. Then a man was forcefully removed, without too much resistance, by two army personnel that was cheered by FPM supporters. Another man was also arrested but was unable to see clearly what went on. The army quickly maintained calm and even allowed voters to continue voting while trying to establish full security.

Away from my personal experience

Interior Minister Baroud announced that by 3pm voter turnout was at 40% compared to 2005 where voter turnout was 45% in total and confirmed that significant security incidents have not occurred and traffic did not prove to be an issue.

At 5:12pm so far so good.

Friday, June 5, 2009

IFES Carnegie Final Election Brief

IFES and Carnegie gave a final briefing to journalists for the election on Sunday. Following the last joint briefing by IFES and Carnegie in April.

Richard Chambers, Party Head of IFES in Lebanon, stated that there is an electoral competition in almost all districts. March 8 and March 14 have presented candidate lists almost throughout the country and this has been added to by independent lists in some districts. Thus, these elections are the competitive in a while.

Paul Salem, of Carnegie, stated that these are the first proper free elections since 1972 and outlined three posts-election scenarios:

1. Hung parliament what Salem sees as most likely. "This is where each camp holds large minorities and a group of independents, close to the President, holding the balance of votes," Salem said. Outside powers of Saudi, US and Syria are directly and indirectly trying to push for this occurrence Salem stated. Interestingly, Salem claims that Syria does not want an all out March 8th victory because Aoun has a difficult relationship with Syria and Hezbollah is closer to Iran. So for Syria the best result is a hung parliament and Syria successfully sold this idea to the US and Saudi as the best option, according to Salem.

2. March 14 win. March 14 have stated that they will refuse to grant veto power to March 8 but Salem warns this could lead to violence and should instead get clear commitments from March 8 to move forward on key political and economic issues.

3. March 8 win. Salem states that this could lead to a situation where there is a collapse in support for Lebanon from the international community and the Gulf states. This could lead to "a collapse in confidence in Lebanon and a precipitous decline into economic and social unrest."

The Curious Case of the Independents

What is an independent in this election?? Is it someone aligned with the President? Not according to Aoun as we have seen with the Jbeil Independent list, led by former advisor to the President Nazam Khoury, that has merged into the March 14 list. Michel Murr in the Metn who is on the Kataeb March 14 list. This allegiance with 'independents' has dropped President Sleiman into hot water, especially in Jbeil. Sleiman Franjieh has also come out forcefully against the President stating that he is making daily visits to his hometown of Amchit in Jbeil encouraging support for Khoury, now of course on the March 14 list.

Tripoli is a unique district for 'independents' that are independent from both the President and the two coalitions March 8 (plus FPM) and March 14. Najib Mikati, on March 14 affiliated list, and Omar Karami, on the March 8 list, are both big political figures in their own right and powerful enough to manoeuvre independently of the five big men that make up March 14 and March 8. Mikati is expected to be the next Prime Minister.

What elections?

These elections don't really matter because the fundamental conflicts that brought Lebanon to a standstill since 2004 have not been addressed, according to The International Crisis Group (ICG). In fact the ICG argues that these elections because of the electoral law and the agreements made at Doha will make the likelihood of any proper national reconciliation less likely not more. "The elections will further entrench existing political elites, the system of which they are prime beneficiaries and the structural paralysis it produces."

The ICG has just issued a report on the elections: Lebanon's Elections: Avoiding a new cycle of confrontation.

Recommendations made by the report:

To Lebanese Parties:

1. Recognize and accept the election results, while avoiding rhetorical incitement.

2. Reiterate support for the broad principle of power-sharing.

3. Relaunch, as soon as possible and under the president’s guidance, the national dialogue on strengthening Lebanon’s sovereignty, which was initiated by the Doha agreement but de facto suspended as elections neared.

4. Task a parliamentary commission, upon formation of a new government, with immediately drafting an electoral law that includes reforms set aside in the context of the Doha agreement, in particular:

(a) bolstering the independence and mandate of the Electoral Supervision Committee; and

(b) defining clear and practical rules governing campaign funding and propaganda.

5. Task a parliamentary commission, upon formation of a new government, with immediately drafting a law on the Constitutional Council, in particular granting the court the power to interpret the Constitution.

To both sides’ foreign allies (notably the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Iran) and actively involved third parties (such as France, Turkey and Qatar):

6. Accept and recognise the election results.

7. Avoid exacerbating divisions by, notably, encouraging a power-sharing arrangement.

8. Deal with the future government on the basis of its actual behaviour (in particular whether it respects international obligations), rather than its specific composition.

9. Engage in a mediation effort or, if needed, support one undertaken by others.

10. Take steps to improve the political system by:

(a) backing civil society reform efforts toward systemic reform;

(b) insisting on strengthenig the Constitutional Council’s role; and

(c) denouncing, publicly and clearly, abusive electoral practices, such as vote-buying and the lack of standardised ballots.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Rather Confused Observation

As-Safir reporter Marlein Khalifeh reported on the bizarre press conference of the Francophone Delegation for Electoral Communication and Information. The press conference reportedly lasted less than half an hour as journalists were at a loss for questions as the panelists were apparently dazed and confused. Have no fear however, the fearless leader of this observation mission, or should I say Electoral Communication and Information delegation, Professor Albert Borgi stated: "Personally I've always criticized Observation missions and considered them as a mere electoral and pictorial joke most of the time." So instead of observing this mission is here to evaluate and bless the polls. For those that will do the thankless task of reading all the observation mission reports this report may be just what you have been waiting for!

Calm before the storm?

Many people have commented on the fact there has been relative quite in Lebanon just days before the elections. The occasional security incidents, since January, that have occurred so far have been mainly in Tripoli, Jebail, Batroun, Zahle and Saida. These security incidents have gradually stopped as the elections have drawn nearer, much to everyones surprise.

The usual sensationalist recriminations in the media have also been tame in comparison to the rhetoric that usually gets bounced around the Lebanese arena. Many Lebanese I have talked to have warned that this is just the calm before the storm and are preparing for the weekend to be when it will happen. "This is Lebanon" is the mantra.

What ever the reasons for the calm I think Lebanon should be proud of the fact that before a major internal political event the environment is peaceful and relatively constructive. Of course everything can change in an instant but lets applaud the calm, thus far, while not being complacent of a possible storm on the election weekend.

Citizen Observers

While there are many international observers that have come to monitor the elections in Lebanon, what about the 4 million Lebanese observers of this election? What is their opinion of what is happening on the ground? Well if Sharek961 gets of the ground we could soon find out. plans to utilize Lebanese citizens/observers across the country and have created a site that allows you to email ( , SMS (t0 7118 9118), Twitter (@sharek961) or place web reports on the site. The idea is that citizens share their election experience.

"Reports can address anything election-related happening around the country, from political rallies and polling queues to vote-buying and violence," the Sharek team stated in a press release.

It will be interesting to see what kind of feedback they get and Sharek961 have stated:

"Sharek961 does not attempt to verify reports and makes no claims as to their accuracy; as a neutral platform it publishes all material reports without editorial or censorship."

It will be interesting to see what kind of feedback occurs in such a free for all environment! Will we get the first bit of breaking news regarding electoral news from a citizen reporting to Shark961? Or will it just act as a platform for political slander? The choice really is up to the Lebanese.

The site was created by five Lebanese volunteers that have funded the project themselves and have been supported by a variety of organizations. The idea was taken fromUshahidi, which means "testimony" in Swahili, a Kenyan crowd sourcing information site.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Prediction Wallchart

Walking the streets of Beirut the other day I bumped into a choir boy who told me about the latest project he had been working on. "Every World Cup, to compensate for our repeated non-qualification, the Welsh have a tradition of predicting the results, which we colour in on a wallchart supplied by newspapers, so I decided to make a similar wallchart especially for the elections," he said. Enjoy!!

The Ministry Guide to the Lebanese Elections

The Offical Polling and Counting Handbook

Here is the polling and counting handbook that has been issued by the Ministry of Interior: