The EU’s Electoral Observation Mission’s chief, Gyorgy Holvenyi, stated on Thursday that roughly 200 observers will monitor the Lebanese parliamentary elections on May 15 with “complete openness and impartiality.”
He told Lebanese President Michel Aoun that a portion of the delegation arrived in Lebanon on March 27 and will stay until June 6.
As in the previous election cycle, Holvenyi said the observers will offer a detailed review of the election process. They will also supervise expatriate voting in various European countries in compliance with the same norms and rules as in Lebanon, he added.
“Despite the severe economic and financial conditions that Lebanon is experiencing, which could have been reduced for voters if mega centers had been implemented,” Aoun stated, “effort is underway to remove barriers to holding the elections.”
He put the blame on the legislative branch. The mega centers that Aoun supports are designed to allow voters to cast ballots outside of the places where they are registered, eliminating the need for them to return to their hometowns to vote. Some people were concerned that approving the development of such centers for the current election cycle might result in delays or postponements.
Aoun voiced concern that voters will turn out in low numbers if the mega centers are rejected, citing increased fuel prices as a result of the country’s financial crisis as an additional cost to voters who must drive further to vote.
According to a court source, 45 judges in Lebanon have so far refused the idea of overseeing the vote-counting process. Judge Ghassan Oweidat, the Public Prosecutor, had earlier written to the Ministry of Justice, urging the appointment of alternates.
“Given the economic situation and the minimal compensation they would earn for more than 24 hours of work,” the source said, “the judges will decline to participate.”
“Staff at public institutions could refrain from observing the electoral process due to poor wages and excessive working hours,” the insider added.
Aoun signed a law approved by parliament on Thursday authorizing an extraordinary allocation in the 2022 general budget for the General Directorate of Political Affairs of the Ministry of Interior, General Security, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cover the costs of domestic and international elections.
The total sum is 620 billion Lebanese pounds ($31 million at the Central Bank’s Sayrafa exchange rate of 20,000 pounds to the dollar). The following is how it will be distributed: 260 billion pounds for the Interior Ministry, 300 billion pounds to cover the cost of issuing 1 million Lebanese passports, and 60 billion pounds to cover the cost of polling expatriates in other countries.
Since the official electoral lists were revealed, political parties have been holding special events to entice hesitant or reluctant voters. Despite this, there is widespread doubt that the elections will take place as planned next month.
“Ever since the government was created, we keep hearing people purposely doubting everything we do in this country — as if they want to prevent Lebanon from rising again and attaining financial, economic, and social recovery,” Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Thursday.
I urge everyone to establish common ground and avoid escalating tensions.”
He went on to say that the elections inspire a lot of hope, especially among the younger people.
Many people are doubting the election’s actual chances, according to political observers, because of the country’s current bad living conditions as a result of the financial crisis, as well as public resentment of a political class that is once again campaigning on unconvincing rhetoric.
The country’s financial predicament has also caused power supply issues, which could interrupt the supply of electricity to polling sites and vote counting centers across the country.
Mikati said his government will not surrender “in the face of the terrible social and economic situation” during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. He emphasized the importance of inviting all segments of society to work together to overcome the “tough situation we are in,” rather than spreading panic and despair among Lebanese.
In a country where medical services are being privatized at an alarming rate, Medecins Sans Frontieres, popularly known as Doctors Without Borders, warned on Thursday that financial pressures are causing people to choose food purchases before healthcare.
“To avoid spending money, people wait seeking care until their health condition deteriorates and reaches a critical degree,” according to the organization, which has established health programs in Wadi Khaled in northern Lebanon, one of the poorest areas of the country. It will be too late at times.”
“With the increasing poverty rates, communities living on the edge of the poverty line are likely to neglect preventive care or try to treat diseases on their own,” said Marcelo Fernandez, the head of the MSF mission in Lebanon. “What we are witnessing in Wadi Khaled is a vivid example of that, and people in fragile conditions are the most affected.”
The National Federation of Trade Unions and Employees in Lebanon has stated that on May 1, Labor Day, it would stage a mass civil disobedience demonstration to protest terrible working conditions and greed that it claims is distorting prices and the black market.
Castro Food prices have risen by 1,500 percent, according to Abdullah, the federation’s president, while hospitals are failing to satisfy essential moral and humanitarian criteria.
He accused candidates running for office next month of taking advantage of the current situation in the most heinous manner possible.
“The opposition forces that profess to be fighting corruption and the ruling authority are no longer concerned with the misery of the people, but rather with their own aspirations, arguing that change can only be achieved through parliament,” Abdullah added.