The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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January 23, 2010

Daily Star - Lade Warns Against Insufficient Electoral Reform

BEIRUT: Failure to implement sufficient electoral reform ahead of municipal elections will raise tensions among voters, Lebanon’s leading democracy campaign group said on Friday.
The executive director of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE), Ziad Abdel-Samad, said that NGOs were seeking electoral reform “in order to achieve the highest levels of citizen participation, the right representation as well as development on the local and national levels alike.”
Abdel-Samad spoke at the manifesto launch of the Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform, unveiled with amendments at UNESCO Palace on Friday in response to Parliament’s decision this week to delay the municipal vote.
“The municipal elections must be held on their constitutional date,” Abdel-Samad said.
He labeled the current six-year terms for municipal councils “too long and inadequate,” and called for a reduction to four years.
“[A six-year term] reduces the ability to hold these councils accountable, which increases the intensity of the struggle for municipal council membership between local components,” he added.
A reduction in term length would reduce “the intensity of the tension arising from the sense of victory or frustration of winners and losers,” Abdel-Samad said.
LADE’s announcement follows a Cabinet discussion session on Tuesday in which it agreed to delay the municipal vote until June in order to implement the electoral reforms put forward by Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud.
Such reforms include the adoption of proportional representation (PR) voting systems in larger municipalities, the use of pre-printed ballots and the introduction of a quota for female candidates.
Abdel-Samad repeated LADE’s call for proportional representation to be universally adopted in all municipalities in Lebanon.
PR voting, according to Abdel-Samad, “could be implemented during municipal elections, according to a formula that ensures a diverse representation,” he said.
One sticking point in electoral reform could be the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18. Baroud did not include any stipulation on voting age in his initial reform proposal, but a clutch of MPs voiced opinions on voter age on Friday.
Marjayoun-Hasbaya MP Ali Fayyad, from Hizbullah’s Loyalty to the Resistance bloc, told the Voice of Lebanon radio that lowering the voting age would require “easy” constitutional amendment.
All political blocs agreed on an age reduction, MP Ali Fayyad added.
In an interview published in Al-Mustaqbal newspaper on Friday, Beirut MP Hani Qobeissi, from Speaker Nabih Berri’s Development and Liberation bloc, said that his group supported a lowered voting age, but that electoral reform in general would be difficult to achieve without cross-party consensus.
“Applying a system of proportional representation requires a lot of further discussion,” he added.
LADE also advocated a lowering of the age of candidates, from 25 to 22 “thus achieving better youth participation, which is also one of the consequences of lowering the voting age to 18 years,” according to Abdel-Samad.
He voiced LADE’s support for pre-printed ballot papers, adding that they were vital to ensure voters’ anonymity.
“Previous electoral reforms paid little interest to this dangerous violation of the principle of vote secrecy,” he said,
Abdel-Samad labeled the lack of a pre-printed ballot a “bizarre and abnormal practice which is still in place in Lebanon contrary to all the other countries in the world.”
He also slammed the handling of disabled voters in last year’s parliamentary elections and called for organizers to redouble efforts in order to ensure all of the electorate can exact its democratic right.
Disabled people were hampered last June as “proper measures were not implemented to equip polling stations and enable them to practice” their right to vote,” LADE’s briefing paper said.
“The participation of people with disabilities and all citizens in the voting process in the municipality elections is no less important than the participation in the electoral duty nationwide,” Abdel-Samad added.
Other recommendations unveiled on Friday were the re-establishing of a supervisory committee to monitor electoral campaigning and the addition of clauses which recognize the right of civil society members to observe the voting process.
President Michel Sleiman weighed in on the municipal election reform campaign, saying the division of Beirut into smaller constituencies for the spring wasn’t on the table.
In remarks published by Al-Mustaqbal newspaper on Friday, Sleiman said that there would be “no postponement” of the local elections, despite reports that the government was planning such a step.
Sleiman said that in the most recent Cabinet meeting, the possibility of a division of the capital into smaller districts wasn’t proposed. “No one raised this issue at the Cabinet meeting, not even Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud,” Sleiman was quoted as saying.

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