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Carter Center Commends Lebanon's Constitutional Council Appointments; Urges Further Clarification of Election Procedures

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Deborah Hakes 1 404 420 5124 (Atlanta); +961 7 058 2708 (In Beirut beginning June 1)

In a report released today, The Carter Center welcomed the May 26 decision by Lebanon's Council of Ministers to appoint the final five members of the Constitutional Council, the body mandated to adjudicate candidates' challenges to electoral results. At the same time, the Center urged Lebanese electoral authorities to provide further clarification of procedures for the filing and resolution of election day complaints by voters and party agents and for the district-level tabulation of official election results.

The June 7, 2009, parliamentary elections promise a high degree of competition, with the possibility of close races in certain districts. Given this, it is important that the election dispute resolution mechanisms of the Constitutional Council are clear to all stakeholders and that parties and candidates follow prescribed means to file any challenges to election results.

The Carter Center launched its 2009 election observation mission for the parliamentary elections in Lebanon in early February. Upon receipt of official accreditation by the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities on March 31, the Center deployed six long-term observers to assess election preparations and the political campaign in Lebanon's 26 electoral districts. The Center will deploy approximately 50 short-term observers to observe balloting, counting, and tabulation processes. In summary, The Carter Center offers the following observations in advance of the elections, which are described further in the attached report:

  • The 2009 parliamentary campaign appears to be more competitive than the 2005 elections, with more than 3,258,000 voters registered to vote and more than 500 candidates running for 128 parliamentary seats.
  • The 2009 elections are regulated by a new election law, passed in 2008, which introduced several important changes and improved the transparency of the Lebanese electoral process. These include more stringent election day procedures, greater transparency regarding campaign finance and the media, and more accessible information regarding the voters list and polling station locations.
  • Effective electoral dispute resolution mechanisms are an essential part of a credible electoral process. The appointment of the remaining fivemembers of the Constitutional Council should help to ensure credible and timely resolution of challenges to the electoral results. To this end, appropriate authorities should take steps to ensure that Constitutional Council's mechanisms for adjudicating candidates' challenges to election results are clear to all stakeholders.
  • While the process for candidates to challenge results before the Constitutional Council is clear, there is a need for further clarification of legal procedures and remedies for election day complaints by voters and party agents. The Carter Center encourages the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities to clarify complaints procedures in enough time prior to election day to allow for adequate dissemination of this information to stakeholders, including polling staff.
  • Minister of the Interior and Municipalities Ziad Baroud has gained the confidence of most stakeholders in the electoral process. The Ministry has made significant efforts regarding the administrative preparations for the elections, including the correction and computerization of the voters' registry and the issuance of several thousand identification cards to voters.
  • Steps have been taken to strengthen security on election day, which should help to foster a calm electoral environment. The Carter Center calls on Lebanese leaders to continue to maintain respect for the peaceful resolution of conflict through the political process that has been reinitiated with the Doha Accord.
  • There remain important issues that, while they cannot be addressed in advance of these elections, should be addressed in advance of future elections. These include the lack of official pre-printed ballot papers, which undermine the secrecy of the ballot.
  • Despite the promotion of women´s participation in the electoral process, for example by encouraging greater gender parity among poll workers, there is nonetheless a deficit of female candidates running for office. This gender imbalance will result in the under-representation of women in the parliament. The Carter Center calls upon Lebanese women to vote on June 7 to increase female participation in the electoral process more broadly.

The Carter Center election observation mission will remain in Lebanon until the end of July to monitor the post election environment, including the complaints process as necessary. The Carter Center election observation mission assesses the electoral process in Lebanon against the relevant legal framework, including, Lebanese election laws, the Constitution of Lebanon, and Lebanon's international commitments. The Center's election observation activities are conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation. The Declaration of Principles was adopted at the United Nations in 2005, and has been endorsed by 33 international election observation groups.


The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production.

Carter Center Election Observation Mission to Lebanon

Pre-Election Report

May 29, 2009

The June 2009 parliamentary elections in Lebanon will mark a critical step in the consolidation of democratic stability for the country. Not only are these elections the first since the signature of the Doha agreement in May 2008, which marked the end of the political crisis that had ensued following the end of former President Emile Lahoud's term in office. They are also the first to take place under a new election law, passed in 2008, and agreed upon by all political parties. The new law includes several important changes that should increase the transparency of the electoral process, including allowing the accreditation of international and domestic observers. In the final week of election preparations, The Carter Center offers the following pre-election observations in a spirit of cooperation with the people of Lebanon.

Election Administration

For the first time, Lebanese authorities will hold parliamentary elections on a single day. Previous parliamentary elections were held in four successive weekends, mainly due to a lack of human resources, both in terms of staff and of security forces. Minister of the Interior and Municipalities Ziad Baroud appears to enjoy the confidence of most stakeholders including political associations, candidates, media, and the voters themselves. For the June 7, 2009, elections, the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities (MoIM) plans to mobilize significant resources to assure the feasibility of holding the elections on one day, and to deter disorder during polling.

The MoIM has so far met most of the legal deadlines with regard to technical preparations and operations for the elections. Top-down cascade trainings (training of trainers) on election procedures have been organized and will reach the entirety of the approximately 11,000 polling station officials by the end of the month. In addition, The MoIM is setting up 1750 polling centers and 5181 polling stations throughout the country.

Reports by Carter Center observers indicate that election preparations are well under way at the local level. However, the level of preparedness of local election administration appears to vary among municipalities, especially with regards to the work of the Mukhtars (local elected officials that work in cooperation with the MOIM to manage the issuance of voter ID cards).

ID Cards – In order to cast a ballot, registered voters must prove their identity by showing an identification document (ID card) or a valid Lebanese passport. In the lead-up to the elections, Lebanese authorities vigorously issued ID cards to potential voters who had requested the required documentation. Preliminary assessments suggest that some 250,000-300,000 citizens have received ID cards since the beginning of the year, approximately 6000-7000 cards per day.

However, the issuance of ID cards was delayed for a significant number of applicants due to difficulties in the fingerprinting process at the Mukhtar level. This resulted in the need for voters to resubmit their fingerprints in order to process their applications. This deficiency was addressed by several extensions of the deadline for ID applications, the establishment of 27 temporary centers, and by the gradual introduction of digital fingerprint scanning kits to facilitate the work of civil registry offices. The issuing of ID cards to rejected applicants was finalised on May 23. In spite of these efforts, a few political parties still fear that IDs will not be issued before election day to all potential voters, who then may face disenfranchisement.

Ballot Papers – The 2008 Lebanese electoral code does not mandate the use of standard official pre-printed ballot papers provided by the government and containing the names of all running candidates in a given district or qada. Voters in Lebanon have the right to choose candidates from across different electoral lists, either by writing their own choice on a standard blank piece of paper provided inside the polling booth or by "crossing-off" the names of certain candidates on a ballot prepared by the candidates and writing in the name of their alternative choice. This feature permits political associations and candidates to prepare and distribute non-standard ballots to the electorate.

The lack of standard official pre-printed ballots may compromise the secrecy of the ballot and opens channels for political parties and elites to exercise inappropriate influence over the choices of voters.[1] In addition, non-standardarized ballot papers remain a challenge to other aspects of the electoral process, particularly with regard to the counting of ballots. Standard pre-printed ballots would be easily reconciled, thus reducing the possibility of invalidating a ballot due to misspelled names. It would also reduce the potential for confusion regarding the intention of the voter, unlike non-standard ballot papers.

Flow of voters – The law provides that the number of registered voters per polling station shall not exceed 800. Depending on the number of voters, polling stations will have up to three voting booths. The number of voters allowed to be inside the polling stations at the same time will be established according to the number of booths. This could lead to long queues of voters and delays in closing the polls.

Election Day Security - The MOIM has introduced additional security precautions for the immediate election period that the Center hopes will have a positive effect on the process. Based on discussion with election administration officials and candidates, on and around election day, security forcess will facilitate electoral processes by directing traffic, delivering election materials, maintaining security as polling stations (at the request of polling station heads), and escorting sensitve election materials from polling stations to registration committee offices.

Facilitation of Voting for Disabled Citizens - The Lebanese government recently issued a decree explicitly providing access to polls for the disabled and allowing them to ask for assistance in the voting process. This is the first decree of its kind in Lebanon. Approximately 68,000 Lebanese voters are registered as disabled with the Ministry of Social Affairs. The Carter Center welcomes these reforms and will comment further on their implementation in subsequent public statements.

Complaints and Electoral Disputes

The 2009 parliamentary elections will be governed in part by the 2008 Parliamentary Election Law as well as other relevent laws and regulations. The 2008 law includes several key improvements from the Parliamentary Election Law of 2000, such as more stringent election day procedures (for example, the use of indelible ink, and transparent ballot boxes), greater transparency regarding campaign finance and the media[i] and more accessible information regarding the the voters list and polling station locations. However, there remains a lack of clarity regarding the mechanisms for resolving electoral complaints and disputes.

The 2008 Parliamentary Election Law and other legislation, such as the Constitutional Council Law of 1993, stipulate that a number of bodies are responsible for the resolution of electoral complaints and disputes. These include institutions charged with election administration, specifically the MOIM, the recently established Supervisory Commission of the Electoral Campaign (SCEC), the Registration Committees, and the Higher Registration Committees. In addition, a number of courts have potential jurisdiction over electoral matters, including the State Council, the Court of Publications, the Criminal Courts, and the Military Courts.

Despite this, the resolution of electoral complaints and disputes remains unclear. To date, aggrieved parties have lodged administrative complaints regarding electoral issues with the SCEC, which regulates campaign finance and media. Given the SCEC's limited mandate, the exent to which it can ajudicate other matters is unclear. Similarly, the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities' mandate to resolve complaints (as opposed to answering questions and/or inquiries) deserves clarification.

In addition, the 2008 electoral law lacks a provision for voters to lodge a complaint and seek adjudication of their complaint on election day on the local level. In the days remaining before the elections, the MoIM should provide further clarification on these procedures.

Newly introduced boundary delimitation, which decreases the size of each qada, could also have an impact on the adjudication of electoral disputes and challenges to the electoral results. Increased electoral competition is likely to reduce the differences in vote totals among candidates in a number of constituencies. In previous elections, the Constitutional Council was likely to confirm the electoral results when challenged, given that there was often a wide margin between the totals for the candidates, and therefore little possibility that the challenged ballots would alter the overall results. With greater competition, there may an increase in challenges regarding the results of the June 7 elections submitted to the Constitutional Council.

As the sole institution with jurisdiction over challenges to the electoral results, the Constitutional Council will be critical to the resolution of electoral disputes. The Carter Center welcomes the appointment of the five remaining Council members and encourages steps to ensure that all stakeholders understand the Council's mechanisms for resolving challenges.

Voter Registration Verification Process

In the run-up to the election, the MoIM conducted a large-scale public information campaign to inform voters of their rights and duties with regard to voter registration. Voters were able to check and challenge incorrect entries or omissions with Registration Committees.[ii] According to the authorities, the process of checking and verifying data on the voter register resulted in the deletion of approximately 40,000 double entries. Some 45,000 citizens newly eligible to vote have been included in the current voter register. For the June 7 election, 3,258,572 citizens are registered to vote.

The Carter Center's observation mission welcomes as a positive step the intention of the MoIM to raise public awareness of each citizen's opportunities to check and verify their inclusion on the voter register. This enhances the transparency of the process. While the Center is pleased with the MoIM's transparency overall, it is concerned about the unwillingness of some local authorities to discuss the voter registration process and provide observers access to this critical process.

Women's Participation in the Electoral and Political Process

While there are no legal obstacles to the political participation of women in Lebanon, women remain under-represented both in the political environment and in election administration. The 2008 election law does not include provisions to promote women's particiption or address gender issues.

Only 12 of the 587 official candidates running in the 2009 Parliamentary elections are women. They represent 2 percent of the candidates officially registered who did not withdraw by April 22, 2009. This is a disappointing figure.

However, the MoIM has taken some steps to ensure that women play a larger role in other aspects of the 2009 elections than in previous elections. Voter education for the female electorate is ongoing with support of the MoIM, and for the first time in Lebanon's electoral history, women will have a role in election administration serving as polling station staff. Some 2,000 women, or 15 to 20 percent of the 11,200 polling staff, have been identified through the Ministry of Education to perform the duties and responsibilities of clerks. The Carter Center commends the MoIM for increasing female participation in the administration of the upcoming elections, and encourages female voters to cast their ballots on June 7 to ensure greater female participation in the electoral process as a whole.

[1] ICCPR, art. 25

[i] Please note that The Carter Center will comment more fully on these issues in subsequent public statements.

[ii] Decisions by these bodies may be appealed to a Higher Registration Committee.

Read more about the Carter Center's work in Lebanon >>

April 21, 2009: Carter Center Launches Election Observation Mission to Lebanon

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