SAT 15 - 12 - 2018
May 4, 2018
The Daily Star
Lebanon: Campaigns make final appeals before media blackout
Joseph Haboush| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Last-ditch efforts will be made Friday by candidates as the clock winds down before a nationwide media blackout goes into effect at midnight and campaigning ends. Politicians have done their best to smear opposing candidates over the last week, culminating with Prime Minister Saad Hariri Thursday rejecting claims by Hezbollah’s leader that the Future Movement had helped Daesh (ISIS) and other terrorist organizations. Earlier in the week, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah told Bekaa voters that the “other list [represents] the sides who stood by the armed terrorist groups who wished to invade all the Bekaa.”
The Lebanese Forces and the Future Movement are aligned in the Baalbeck-Hermel district against a list backed by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement.
Hariri went on to say that Hezbollah doesn’t have the right to accuse “us” of funding extremism, “and if there’s anything that is [doing so] it is Hezbollah itself.”
The premier called on voters at the same event in Beirut Thursday to follow the instructions of his party’s electoral machine in distributing preferential votes in order to see the largest possible number of Future candidates elected.
Speaking to Amal supporters Speaker Nabih Berri appealed for a widespread turnout of voters to allow candidates on the Amal-Hezbollah lists to “defend your [values] of unity and coexistence.”
Berri claimed the candidates would fight corruption and preserve the tripartite equation of “Army, people and resistance,” in reference to Hezbollah’s armed wing. “As one hand, one heart and one voice ... we will [create] a new surprise from Lebanon, titled ‘Hope and Loyalty.’”
Electoral supervisory body head Judge Nadim Abdel-Malek stressed the importance of media outlets abiding by the news blackout article detailed in the electoral law. Article 78 states that from midnight of the day before the vote until ballot boxes are closed, media outlets are prohibited to broadcast any direct
announcement, advertisement or any electoral call, except for audio or footage that is hard to avoid during permitted coverage of the electoral process. On election day, media coverage will be limited to airing the voting process.“We call on all to focus on this law and it’s on the media outlets to follow the rules,” Abdel-Malek told The Daily Star. “We are not against the media at all, but this is part of the law so if media outlets don’t respect the law then it’s their fault.”
This year’s elections come at a time when social media outlets are being used at a rate not seen in previous elections. “They [candidates or voters] should not take to Twitter or other social media outlets to speak about the elections or anything related to them,” Abdel-Malek added.
As politicians and candidates finalize their campaigns and await the results, security forces said they have a plan in order to ensure the safety of voters and the process throughout the weekend.
“Our troops are all reserved for the weekend – 100 percent of them,” a Lebanese Army source told The Daily Star. The source noted that soldiers will be posted at every polling station in the country.
Army head Gen. Joseph Aoun said Thursday his forces were aiming to “prevent the exploitation of delicate conditions that the country is going through,” as Lebanon gears up for its first parliamentary elections in nine years amid heightened security.
He also warned the military against “being dragged into provocations” as election day – now just two days away – draws nearer.
“Appropriate measures have been taken to keep pace with this national event, especially in terms of providing citizens with security, to enable them to move and express their opinions at the ballot boxes in an atmosphere of freedom, tranquility and democracy,” the Army chief was quoted as saying in an Army statement.
A decision was issued by Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk to prevent convoys from gathering in any part of the country from 7 a.m. May 5 until 8 a.m. May 8. Nightclubs are to be closed Saturday evening, while restaurants and cafes are to close from 1 a.m. Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Internal Security Forces has a strict plan in place to deploy police officers across all areas of the country.
Machnouk informed ministers of the plan during Thursday’s Cabinet meeting – the last of this government’s before the elections.
Despite this, Cabinet is set to meet at least once next week before May 20, when it will become a caretaker government.
Multiple ministers and a Baabda Palace source told The Daily Star Thursday’s session headed by President Michel Aoun was “very good.”
Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf confirmed that the current Cabinet, by law, can continue to meet normally even after it becomes a caretaker government as long the prime minister and president call for sessions.
“The importance of the sessions is determined by [Aoun and Hariri] and there are many issues that are pressing,” Sarraf said.
Speaking to reporters after the session, Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi spoke of the approval of 14 appointments to fill vacant positions on the Socio-Economic Council. Official sources described the meeting as “calm and regular.” Youth and Sports Minister Mohammad Fneish said the meeting touched on last week’s unprecedented diaspora voting.
“It was a success, but there were some issues and a final report will be distributed to the Cabinet on the expatriate voting,” he said.
The president praised the first phase of the elections with the successful completion of the early expatriate vote, a statement from the presidency said.
The expats who were unable to vote due to administrative reasons during the overseas voting last week will be allowed to vote in Lebanon on May 6, the Foreign Ministry announced Thursday.
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil issued a memo to all heads of delegations announcing that Lebanese who didn’t vote on May 27 and May 29 “due to faults in the administration, such as not receiving their passports,” will be allowed to cast their ballots on election day.
“The lists of those who weren’t handed their passports will be sent to the Interior Ministry so that it takes the necessary action to add their names on the voter lists in Lebanon,” the memo read. In a news conference Sunday, and during his follow-up on the expats voting in Europe, the Americas, Australia and Africa, Machnouk told reporters that out of 6,000 passports requested by Lebanese living abroad, 400 were not delivered in time for the vote.
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