|Date: Apr 18, 2018|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Lebanon: Regional meddling threatens Lebanon elections: LADE|
|BEIRUT: Increasing violations of Lebanon’s electoral law threaten to undermine the democracy of Lebanon’s first parliamentary elections in nine years, a local elections oversight NGO warned in a report published Tuesday.|
The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections warned of these violations being committed with relative impunity given the hurdles faced by an electoral supervisory committee hamstrung by the political establishment.
The committee was established to oversee the elections, which are set for May 6, and is under the authority of the Interior Ministry.
The ministry is headed by Nouhad Machnouk – himself a candidate in the upcoming elections. Many other ministers, as well as Prime Minister Saad Hariri himself, are in the running, raising widespread concerns over conflicts of interest.
LADE reported that many violations to the electoral law stemmed from “external interventions” by nations such as – but not limited to – Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have long used Lebanon as an arena for their regional power play.
During a Tuesday press conference at the LADE Beirut headquarters to present the report, a LADE official listed a series of examples of these interventions, including actions by Arab diplomats in Lebanon, the recent CEDRE conference, and the naming of “a street in Beirut after one of the Arab kings who supports one of the political parties in Lebanon against another party.”
In early April, a new avenue named after Saudi King Salman was celebrated with great fanfare at an event on Beirut's waterfront. The inauguration brought together key politicians including Hariri, Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea and Progressive Socialist Party head Walid Jumblatt.
The event saw nearby skyscrapers lit up in the colors of the Saudi flag, and brought together politicians from the now disintegrated Saudi-supported March 14 coalition.
The LADE official noted that the external influence evident in such events “cannot be separated from the electoral campaigns that are taking place in Lebanon these days,” the official said.
Foreign money given to campaigns, “whether by Saudi Arabia or Iran or others,” damages the principle of equal opportunities between candidates, the official said.
This has only been exacerbated by the manner in which candidates are represented in Lebanon’s media, which is almost entirely politically controlled or affiliated, the LADE representative said.
He also noted that there had been a “systematic political decision by the Lebanese government in all its components, represented by the interior minister and finance minister, to undermine the work of the electoral supervision body.”
This decision had been implemented, in part, by delaying the allocation of funds and manpower to the body, the report said.