Carter Center Commends Lebanon's Successful Elections;
Notes Shortcomings and Encourages Continued Reform
(Read in Arabic)
June 8, 2009
Contact: Deborah Hakes in Beirut: +961 70582708
Read the full statement of preliminary findings and conclusions (PDF) >
The Carter Center commends the Lebanese people and the electoral authorities for the successful conduct of the 2009 parliamentary elections, the results of which have been accepted by both sides. While the process fell short of several of Lebanon's international commitments, most notably secrecy of the ballot, it was conducted with enhanced transparency and in accordance with Lebanon's new consensual electoral law and regulations.
In this context, the election has produced results that should provide an acceptable basis for consultations regarding the formation of a broad-based government. In addition, the 2009 electoral process provides an important foundation for additional electoral reforms to which a broad spectrum of civil society and political leaders have already committed.
The 2009 elections fall at a critical moment in the nation's history. Following years of civil strife and political crisis, Lebanese political leaders signed the Doha Agreement in May 2008 which led to the election of a consensus president, the formation of a national unity government, and established parameters for electoral reform and new parliamentary elections.
The Center opened an office in Beirut in early 2009 and deployed six long-term observers in March to assess electoral preparations and the campaign period. For the June 7 elections, President Carter and former Prime Minister of Yemen Abdul-Kareem al-Eryani led a mission of 60 observers from 23 countries to assess voting, counting, and tabulation processes. Carter Center observers visited more than 350 polling stations in all districts of the country.
The Carter Center offers the following findings and recommendations about the electoral process:
- The Minister of Interior and Municipalities (MOIM), tasked with the administration of the elections, successfully implemented Lebanon's first single-day voting process, which was marked by high levels of voter participation. The logistical and operational aspects of the election were conducted effectively, with a high level of professionalism being exhibited by polling staff in most of the stations visited. Minister Baroud earned the confidence of Lebanese stakeholders through his commitment to a transparent process. In addition, the security forces played a critical role in support of the process, behaved professionally throughout election day, and were responsive to isolated incidents of violence.
- The 2008 elections introduced several important reforms in the country's electoral system which increased transparency in the electoral process. These reforms include the provision of an explicit role for domestic and international observers. The domestic observers in particular, played a significant role in promoting transparency and encouraging accountability.
- Despite these positive steps, Lebanon's electoral system falls short of international standards regarding fundamental civil and political rights, including secrecy of the ballot, the right to be elected, and equal suffrage. The lack of official pre-printed ballot papers, together with the use of the family code in the voters registry, undermines secrecy of the ballot by allowing for the creation of unique ballots that can be linked to particular voter or sets of voters. In addition, the electoral system, which restricts candidacy to eleven recognized confessions, does not fully protect the right of all citizens to be elected, and inequalities in the number of voters per constituency effectively undermine equal suffrage.
- Although the 2008 law adopts provisions to regulate campaign finance, it has important loopholes. In addition, although foreign funding is prohibited by law, public allegations of illegal funding were pervasive throughout the campaign period, as were allegations of vote buying. The Carter Center urges Lebanon to address these problems and further strengthen their system of financial regulation.
- Carter Center observers noted a number of procedural shortcomings on election day that resulted in long lines at many polling stations. For example, until late on election day, polling procedures only allowed one voter to be in a polling station at a time. Additionally, in many cases, the only effective polling staff were those appointed by the MOIM. This lack of sufficiently trained staff hindered efficiency and resulted in overcrowding.
- In addition, in most cases the supplementary polling station staff were candidates' representatives, which introduced an element of partisanship. Furthermore, in the majority of polling stations visited, Carter Center observers noted active campaigning both within and around polling stations
- At polling stations in areas throughout the country Carter Center observers reported that several parties had set up temporary offices in the direct vicinity of polling stations, a violation of campaign regulations which had the potential to influence voters. In addition, in some districts in Southern Lebanon observers noted multiple instances of intimidation by party supporters outside polling stations.
- Carter Center observers noted a high-level of female participation in the voting process. However, the Center is disappointed in the low number of female candidates.
- Despite recent steps to increase the political participation of disabled citizens, Carter Center observers noted that most polling stations did not provide sufficient access for disabled voters.
- The Carter Center encourages all stakeholders, including the electoral administration, civil society, and religious and political leaders to continue to pursue electoral reform. Key recommendations for reform include:
- Increased protection for secrecy of the ballot, for example through the use of official, standardized, pre-printed ballots.
- Increased independence of the electoral authority
- Positive measures to increase the representation of women in parliament.
- The adoption of changes aimed at making the electoral system more representative.
- Implementation of recent legislation regarding lowering the voting age and the facilitation of overseas voting.
- Steps to ensure equal participation of disabled persons in the electoral process
This statement is preliminary; a final report will be published several months after election day. The observation mission was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation (PDF). The Carter Center assessed these elections based on the relevant domestic laws and international obligations. Carter Center observers will remain in Lebanon to observe the post-election environment.