Campaigning blackout brings relief from election fever in Lebanon

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  • The Elections Supervisory Commission has banned all media from “broadcasting any advert, propaganda or direct electoral appeal,” said Atallah Ghasham.
  • The election coincides with the anniversary of May 6, when the Lebanese celebrate their martyrs who were hanged more than 100 years ago by the Ottoman Empire.

BEIRUT: Mohi Eddin Abu Amo, a Beirut resident, sat in front of his door on the Bechara El-Khoury highway in the heart of Beirut watching the capital’s non-residents head out toward the mountainous regions and other provinces in preparation for voting in Sunday’s election.

“There is an election silence today,” he told Arab News. “Finally, we’ll have some rest from the noise of the candidates’ campaigns and their shouting and shows of defiance at each other. Now I can reflect on who I’m going to elect for the next four years.”

It has been nine years since Lebanon last went to the polls in a democratic hiatus forced on the country by the Syrian war. During that time, the country has been flooded with refugees, faced major security challenges and large-scale protests against failing government services.

While many have welcomed a return to Lebanon’s riotous election campaigning, centered around the main political, religious and clan-based power centers, others are looking forward to the whole thing being over and a return to calm.

Abu Amo is a voter in Beirut’s second constituency, which is witnessing one of the fiercest battles, where nine electoral lists that include 83 candidates are competing for 11 seats. He said that nothing that had happened in the past two weeks of festivals, speeches, controversies and rumors among the contestants had affected his decision to vote.

Laura, taking her dog to a veterinary clinic in the Badaro district of Beirut, said she would not vote for anyone. She asked the vet to keep her dog until Monday evening when she returned from abroad. She decided to travel to Cyprus from Friday to Monday, the duration of the holiday imposed by the Council of Ministers on public institutions to allow voters to go to their villages and towns without causing a traffic jam.

“The judiciary will stop working so I will run away on a vacation that will ease the pressure of life in Lebanon,” Laura, a lawyer, said. “Why should I vote? Is the power supply available? Have they addressed the issue of traffic congestion? Nothing in Lebanon is right. The elections will only change the faces of those in Parliament, but the corrupt political practice will remain the same.”

But Mona, who works in digital media, said she was from Zahle and would leave for her hometown in the Bekaa Valley on Saturday night to be able to exercise her right to vote for the first time in her life.

The ballot box will open on Sunday to just under 3.7 million registered voters, including many young people who have reached the age of 21 since the last election.

On Saturday, the Lebanese Army deployed near polling stations with the support of the internal security forces to protect voters and the electoral process. Voting takes place between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The Elections Supervisory Commission has banned all media on Sunday from “broadcasting any advert, propaganda or direct electoral appeal,” said Atallah Ghasham, secretary of the organization. “No candidate or political actor has the right to speak or give statements to the media until the polls are closed.”

The central operations room for the elections in the Ministry of the Interior distributed 6,793 ballot boxes across Lebanon. The ballot boxes reached the polling stations and remained under the custody of the internal security forces until the heads of registries arrived this morning to start the electoral process.

Thirty-six new observers joined the European observers under the EU election observation mission, which came to Lebanon in preparation for the electoral process. A total of 132 European observers will be deployed in all areas on Sunday.

Elena Valenciano, chief observer for the mission in Lebanon, said: “Our observers have good experience in observing elections. These elections are important for the Lebanese people, not only because they are the first in the country in nine years, but because of the new proportional system.”

Valenciano said that “the observers will evaluate all aspects of the electoral process, including the legal framework, election administration, voter registration and respect for fundamental freedoms.”

The election coincides with the anniversary of May 6, when the Lebanese celebrate their martyrs who were hanged more than 100 years ago by the Ottoman Empire.

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