Elections

Election observers begin work across Lebanon

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

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Chief observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission to Lebanon Elena Valenciano announces the official start of the mission’s work in Lebanon on April 13th. [Nohad Topalian/Al-Mashareq]

Observers from the European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) have deployed across Lebanon ahead of the parliamentary elections, set for May 6th, along with delegations of election monitors from other countries.

European Parliament member Elena Valenciano is serving as as chief observer of the EUEOM to Lebanon, according to the European External Action Service.

The mission's core team, consisting of nine analysts, arrived in Beirut on March 27th, and will stay in the country until the completion of the electoral process.

This team will also prepare a comprehensive final report.

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Delegates from the EU Election Observation Mission to Lebanon meet at a campaign office in Zahle. [Photo courtesy of EUEOM]

At the beginning of April, the core team was joined by 24 long-term observers who are deployed across the country.

A further 36 short-term observers will be deployed at the beginning of May, after observing the vote of the Lebanese expatriates on April 27th and 29th.

The elections, Lebanon's first in nine years, will be held "under an Arab, international and local microscope", Minister of Interior and Municipalities Nohad al-Machnouk said.

"Our responsibility is to ensure that the elections are transparent, neutral and fair," he added.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI), headed by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, "will monitor the elections with 30 observers distributed among the 15 electoral districts", al-Machnouk’s media office said.

It is also expected that a team from the Arab League and another from the Arab Network for Election Monitoring will monitor the elections, the media office said.

Comprehensive election assessment

EUEOM's 24 long-term observers have been divided into 12 teams of two, distributed among 12 sites in various areas of Lebanon, and will monitor "all aspects of the electoral process", Valenciano told Al-Mashareq.

The observers have started working on preparatory procedures in advance of monitoring the electoral process on election day, and the release of results, up to and through the deadline for the submission of appeals, she said.

Valenciano arrived in Lebanon on April 10th to meet with al-Machnouk and Lebanese President Michel Aoun and be briefed on election preparations. She will remain in the country until after the elections.

"The mission will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the legal framework, election administration, voter registration, electoral campaigns and their funding, the media’s conduct, voting process, counting process and release of results," she said.

"The observers have begun meeting with officials working on the elections, from the interior minister, to governors and others," she said.

They have begun preparing detailed reports from the field which they are sending to the team of analysts, who are based in Beirut, she added.

On election day, six members of the European Parliament, about 30 representatives of European diplomatic missions in Lebanon and representatives of the diplomatic missions of Switzerland and Norway, will join the other EU observers, Valenciano said.

The delegation will adhere to the "maximum standards of neutrality and non-interference in doing its work and evaluating the results", she said. "We expect a transparent election, and we are in Lebanon to help achieve that goal."

'Elections will be more transparent'

"It is not the first time that the [EUEOM] mission monitors the elections in Lebanon," said Laury Haytayan, who is running for election in Beirut's first district on the We Are All National list.

The EU has previously observed elections in Lebanon in 2005 and 2009.

It is very important, especially in these elections, which will be conducted based on a new election law, that there be neutral parties from outside of Lebanon to monitor the elections, she told Al-Mashareq.

The presence of observers "gives us candidates a sense that the elections will be more transparent", she added.

"Their presence is important not only on election day but also prior to it, because irregularities, such as vote buying, occur before the election," she said.

The presence of observers "is very important", Lebanese Transparency Association executive director Dany Haddad told Al-Mashareq.

Observers who monitored the 2009 elections "submitted good reports on the conduct of the electoral process and made important recommendations", he said.

These pointed to the need for Lebanon to adopt a proportional election law and to strengthen the role of women, among others, he added.

A total of 86 women are seeking legislative office in the May 6th elections, out of 597 candidates, accounting for around 15% of the field.

The presence of election monitors in 2018 "strengthens confidence in Lebanon and democracy, and enhances transparency", Haddad added.

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