BEIRUT: The head of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) highlighted on Thursday the importance of holding municipal elections on time.
“The necessity of organizing municipal polls on time has become a major issue before us,” Ziad Abdul-Samad said in a press conference organized by the Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform and the National Committee Supporting the Establishment of a Female Quota.
The conference was held to pressure the Cabinet and Parliament to hold elections on time, “in accordance with the Lebanese Constitution and sovereignty,” Abdul-Samad said.
He praised the Cabinet for agreeing several municipal electoral reforms but said postponing discussions over the mechanism of proportional representation might be a tactic by some ministers to delay municipal elections.
The head of LADE urged Parliament to take into consideration all the reforms that were not approved by the Cabinet.
These reforms include “establishing an independent committee to organize the elections, lowering the voting age to 18, the adoption of a 33.33 percent female quota in electoral lists and seats, allowing civil society organizations to monitor the elections, enabling disabled people to vote, counting votes in polling stations, and enabling those detained for interrogation and Lebanese Armed Forces members to vote,” he said.
Cabinet approved on Wednesday the adoption of major reforms to the municipal electoral law, including embracing proportional representation in all districts and the direct election of deputies and their mayors from the people. The allocation of a 20 percent female quota and allowing the use of pre-printed ballots were approved by the Cabinet earlier this month. The amendments to the law are not effective until ratification by Parliament.
“I would like … to extend my congratulations to all the civil society institutions for what was achieved in the Cabinet regarding the approval of proportional representation in all districts in the municipal electoral law,” Abdul-Samad said.
The LADE official noted, however, that the approved reforms had not yet become a draft law to be submitted to Parliament for ratification.
“We were hoping that the Cabinet will conclude discussions over the draft law submitted by Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud and refer it immediately to Parliament, which we insist should ratify it with all its reform articles.”
Abdul-Samad also demanded the municipal elections be held on time: “The Lebanese are asked to call for the holding of democratic, free and transparent elections on time, instead of postponing it every time we don’t agree on all reforms.”
He said the decision to hold elections was “an internal decision that promotes civil peace, political and security stability bolsters the democratic system and strengthens the civil and political participation of the Lebanese citizen.”
“Municipal elections are a step toward the renewal of local authorities and a widening of people’s options when it comes to choosing their development goals and achieving economic and social development on local and national levels,” he said. “Such issues are sought by all Lebanese to strengthen their trust in their state.”
Abdul-Samad said postponing the municipal elections would undermine the government’s credibility. “Maybe political bickering over the reforms is healthy, but delaying the municipal elections is an extremely dangerous act.”
The adoption of several electoral reforms was a “step toward true democratic reform,” Abdul-Samad added.