Towards free, fair and transparent elections in Lebanon
The 2009 Lebanese elections will be different from the previous parliamentary elections. This year, several changes were made concerning the electoral procedures such as redrawing of the electoral district, holding the elections in all the districts at the same day and using the National ID cards instead of voter cards. These changes were the outcome of the new electoral law that was enacted on October 2008 in the framework of the reconciliation process following the Doha agreement.
This year, UNDP Lebanon got engaged in strengthening the electoral process in Lebanon and provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Interior in order to conduct free, fair and transparent elections. This technical assistance ranged from voter identification and registration, public awareness campaign, establishment of a hotline, to a more targeted assistance, like media training. UNDP prepared the ground for the Election Day. It worked on speeding up the process of issuing the additional 700,000 ID cards, and procured the Ministry of Interior with around 35 digital fingerprints machine and data entry storing of personal status.
At the same time, UNDP and the Ministry of Interior launched the Public Awareness Campaign broadcasted on all the national TV and radio stations. “Your vote is secret”, “Each vote counts”, “Choose wisely”, are some of the seven TV campaigns on elections that target each Lebanese citizen in particular women, elderly, and handicapped. Other than TV spots, a wide range of visibility materials were produced like posters, flyers, stickers, and bags.
In addition to that, a hotline was established to provide support and professional information on the elections procedures. “We receive around 500 calls each day from voters, journalists, observers requesting specific information on the election day” says Carmina Sanchis- Ruescas, the electoral project manager, adding that “ this is the best way to give different stakeholders access to information.”
Always focusing on raising awareness and providing necessary information on the elections procedures, UNDP has managed the Ministry of Interior website where voters can easily check if their names are mentioned in the voting lists.
UNDP also focused on training national journalists from different backgrounds, given the important role that the media plays during the elections. For this end, a media center was established and equipped in the Ministry of Interior.
“I benefited a lot from the training because I learned the right techniques to cover the elections operations. I also shared opinions and information with the journalists from different media organizations who attended the sessions,” explained Ms. Ittihad Darwish, journalist in the National News Agency.
The training programs also targeted around eleven thousands people from the directorate’s staff in Beirut and in the regions during the pre-elections period.
UNDP is concerned with supporting the electoral processes that sustains democratic participation. For this end, the technical assistance will be extended to the 2010 municipal elections as well as the next parliamentary elections scheduled for 2013.