Friday, May 20, 2005

The Missing Variable: International Elections Monitors

For the past two weeks, we've been talking elections and all the respective variables that have and will affect our elections...but we've forgotten to talk about one important variable, even Lebanese newspapers and media do not broach it much, namely: the presence of international elections monitors.

Have we come to the realization yet to what this variable means, and how it will affect our elections, its process and results? Let me share with you my thoughts:

The presence of international elections monitors has never happened throughout Lebanon's modern history. This is a new phenomenon and in my view will definitely make the 2000 election law garner results different from what we expect.

The presence of monitors in essence will level the playing field amongst all those running for elections. It will push all to try to garner public support and get as many supporters to vote on election day. Why? Because elections cannot be rigged anymore: no more "sudden" electricity breakdowns while monitors and volunteers count the ballots; less or perhaps no more intimidation on the part of "security" figures; no more outright "miscounting" ballots; no more raising voters from the dead; no more buses of non-registered, newly naturalized Lebanese driven to certain electoral areas, like the Northern Metn for instance, upon the request of political figures, and the list goes on...

Yes! We can all believe that, because we have elections monitors for the first time, and again I'll repeat it so I can believe it, their presence will make a difference.

Returning to the discussion on levelling the playing field. Now, every politician, whether it is as important as Sleiman Franjieh or not so prominent runner-up Dr. Kassem Abdel-Aziz (who's running for a Dinnieh seat), has to be sure that at the end of the day, the votes they'll be getting in the ballot box are the votes that will make them win or lose. That's it! No trading votes, or adding a couple more...

Further, the "Mahadil" lists everyone talks about, cannot be "Mahadil" that don't appeal to the public. For instance, Hizbullah cannot forge an electoral list for the Bekaa and include figures who will not get votes, because this time there is no way to rig the voting process, and those individuals on the lists need to get the numbers to win. Now, of course, the pressure will be to do all what political groups can do to market to the "Lebanese public" their runners-up, as opposed to market their runners-up to some "foreign" power.

Now that we've included this critical variable into the electoral equation, we can then understand why many of the nominees are withdrawing from the race, such as Beshara Mirhij; why many current MPs are not planning to run for elections; why until now nothing decisive has come out of Franjieh/Karami and from the Murrs; why someone like Jamil El-Sayyid who was set to run is not longer running; why despite knowing beforehand that nine Beirut seats have been guaranteed, Saad Hariri is still calling on everyone to come out and vote....

Have you all noticed how Carina Pirelli, the chief of the United Nations' Electoral Assistance division, has been to every single home of MPs, politicians, those in power and out of power? She reminded me of when Investigator Fitzgerald was in Lebanon three months ago. I believe she is studying the Lebanese political landscape and she claims that they are here not to monitor but to aid in elections logistics (as separate monitoring delegations have been sent) which in reality translates to: "If politicians are complaining of the election law, if they're complaining about paying people to vote for this person or that, if they're fussing about electricity cuts during the voting process, if, if, if...she will be there to remedy the flaws and provide the missing logistics to ensure a transparent and free election process...

I want to note that yes, the 2000 election law is unfair and has been designed and blessed by Syrian intelligence officers...but this time around we are guaranteed one good thing in the midst of chaos: the election PROCESS on the days the Lebanese people are scheduled to vote will not be rigged. And isn't it strange that no one has written about this variable yet?


"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

3 comments:

reem said...

Doha,
I am wondering whether the "absence" of discussion on that topic is due to the fact that the elections have to be seen purely as a product of internal changes -therefore avoiding to mention anything that has to do with observers from "the west"...remember how the opposition was accused of being under western influence, and how Lebanon was branded as passing from Syrian tutelage to UN tutelage...

Anonymous said...

One thing we do in the US, as local election law, is that each polling place has a watcher from each political party. If problems arise, they an challenge.
Jan

Doha said...

anonymous, we follow the same procedure in Lebanon: we usually have watchers/representatives from each political party/group running in order for them to challenge any problems that arise during ballot counting. But having international monitors would provide more legitimacy to the election results. I believe that every country should have independent election monitors, even in the US.