Elena Valenciano, head of the European Union's Election Observation Mission deployed during the last elections, has spent the week in Beirut, to follow up on the mission’s recommendations. Ms Valenciano was accompanied by a team of electoral experts and EU officials and met with a wide range of Lebanese actors.
Ms Valenciano met with the President of the Lebanese Republic, and the caretaker government’s Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Interior. She also met with the Supervisory Commission for Elections (SCE), and held meetings with the leaders of the Free Patriotic Movement, the Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces, Amal, Hezbollah, Kataeb, and the Progressive Socialist Party, as well as representatives of emerging political movements and women seeking to increase their presence in the political arena. In addition, Ms Valenciano met with representatives of organisations working on different aspects of the electoral framework.
Following these exchanges, Elena Valenciano noted that they converged on the prospects of elections next year.
“I am encouraged by the commitment of all political leaders to holding the elections scheduled for 2022 on time.”
Ms Valenciano referred to the challenges currently facing Lebanon and the fact that these had made it difficult to proceed with much-needed legal reforms.
‘Lebanon has faced a number of significant difficulties since the 2018 elections, and that context has not been conducive to implementing the recommendations made by the European Union election observation mission. We maintain that these should be considered as part of the ongoing process of shaping the electoral framework in Lebanon, and debated by Lebanese stakeholders at a later date.’
Ms Valenciano emphasised that in view of the elections foreseen next year, some measures were nonetheless possible, necessary and urgent.
“In the time remaining before the elections scheduled for 2022, several measures should be taken promptly, with a view to ensuring inclusive elections with equal access to campaigning for all. To that end, the Supervisory Commission for Elections urgently needs to be installed: its members need to be nominated, and the Commission needs to be provided with the resources to fully carry out its mandate of overseeing compliance with campaign spending limits, and regulating equal access to media coverage for candidates and lists presenting their programmes to Lebanese citizens. Such measures, aiming to ensure a level playing field for all election contenders, are particularly important in times of political, economic and social crisis such as the one Lebanon is currently going through.”
Ms Valenciano added that once officially installed and provided with the resources to genuinely oversee campaign finances and media coverage, the Commission should plan on how to make full use of its legal mandate, including through publishing clear guidelines and initiating constant communication to the media and the public in general.
Ms Valenciano also emphasised the importance of Lebanese women gaining access to elected positions of decision-making, after just 6 women were elected to the outgoing parliament.
“While we maintain that a minimum quota for women in parliament would be an efficient way to rapidly improve the balance of women and men in positions of power, I call on all political parties to markedly increase the number of women in their candidate lists, and to ensure equal support and prominence for their campaigns. I also call on the media to ensure that women candidates and their campaigns be given equal coverage in the press.”
Touching on the profound challenges currently faced by Lebanon, Ms Valenciano hoped voters would take the opportunity of the elections to express their will, adding, ‘It is precisely in times of crisis that it is all the more important that citizens participate in shaping the country’s future.’ Ms Valenciano added the upcoming elections represent an opportunity to consolidate recently introduced positive developments, such as facilitating voting for Lebanese citizens from abroad.
Ms Valenciano added, “I wish to thank to all the Lebanese people who have given me such a warm welcome, both during the election observation mission and on my visits since then. I am with them in their best hopes for their