Over 100 EU observers will be deployed and stationed across the 12 polling stations where Lebanese voters will cast their ballots in order to “support credible, transparent and inclusive elections.”
by Georgi Azar
BEIRUT: On May 6, Lebanese voters will elect their representatives for the first time in nine years in what is gearing up to be a highly contested electoral battle.
With election day looming on the horizon, questions have been raised over the transparency and fairness of the contest, yet the deputy director of Lebanon’s European Union Election Observation Mission José Antonio de Gabri maintained that his commission’s preeminent objective is to monitor the implementation of a “level playing field” for all parties involved.
“We’re here to observe impartially, objectively, professionally, independently and without bias,” Gabri told Annahar.
Over 100 EU observers will be deployed and stationed across the 12 polling stations where Lebanese voters will cast their ballots, in order to “support credible, transparent and inclusive elections.”
A team of nine analysts will remain in Lebanon until the completion of the electoral process with the aim of preparing a comprehensive final report to be shared with the Lebanese public, government officials, and political players.
Yet the deputy director stopped short of expressing jurisdiction over Lebanese authorities, maintaining that his mission does not override local governance.
“Our mission does not replace Lebanese authorities, we respect the country’s sovereignty and the institutions entrusted with the responsibility for holding these parliamentary elections.”
Touching on campaign expenditure, which is capped at an inflated amount according to experts, Gabri reiterated his mission’s objective to monitor campaign spending of all parties which “should be in line within the standards” of the new electoral law.
According to the newly ratified electoral law, a fixed amount of LBP 150 million ($99,240) per candidate can be spent, as well as an additional LBP 5,000 per registered voter in each large electoral district. Meanwhile, another LBP 150 million can also be spent by each electoral list.
This amount can exceed $1 million in large districts where the number of registered voters surpasses 300,000.
Gadri also reaffirmed the role needed to be played by Lebanon’s own Electoral Supervisory Committee which has been entrusted to lay the necessary foundations for a candid and honest electoral process. “We will monitor both the committee and the Interior Ministry’s performance,” he said, adding that it is of the utmost importance “that campaigns are able to express themselves freely and without constraints.”
The committee has found itself under the spotlight in recent days after it came to light that the necessary funding needed for it to perform its task was yet to be allocated, while one of its 11-members resigned citing her unwillingness to be part of a commission that is “unable” to carry out its mandate.
A comment made by its head Nadim Abdel-Malek earlier this week also raised eyebrows, after he admitted that his body’s oversight doesn’t include members of the current government and therefore “has no jurisdiction over politicians.” Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Interior Minister Nohad Machnouq, among others, are candidates in the race.
“Our job is not to instruct local authorities, but mainly to give our opinion and it is up to them to take action,” said Gabri.
“Again, I would like to remind people that our work is limited by our respect for Lebanon’s national sovereignty.”