Watchdogs voiced fears Wednesday that next month’s by-election in Tripoli might do away with pre-printed ballots.
Announcing a monitoring campaign for the election, the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections, the Maharat Foundation, the Lebanese Democratic Women’s Gathering and the Lebanese Union for People with Physical Disabilities laid out several of their concerns at a news conference in Beirut.
Most prominent was the question over pre-printed ballots. In last year’s elections, Lebanon adopted pre-printed ballots for the first time in the country’s history - a step LADE and others have credited as increasing voter privacy and decreasing undue pressure from campaigns.
The issue of using pre-printed ballots next month depends on how electoral laws are interpreted.
Interior Minister Raya El Hassan has not yet said whether the by-election will keep pre-printed ballots. She did not respond to a request for comment. The April 14 vote will be for the seat left vacant by a Feb. 21 decision annulling the election of Dima Jamali in last year’s parliamentary elections.
Jamali declared her intent to run the same day, and launched her campaign two weeks later. Backed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his Future Movement, she is considered the heavy favorite.
Her most-discussed potential opponent is Taha Naji, who brought the successful electoral appeal. Naji has not indicated whether he will run; the filing deadline is at the end of next week.
At Wednesday’s news conference, the NGOs also lent full-throated support to the Electoral Supervisory Committee and warned against any actions that might compromise the committee’s integrity or independence. Other concerns included fair media coverage, fair treatment of female candidates and voters and equal access for the disabled.
Sylvana Lakkis, president of the Lebanese Union for People with Physical Disabilities, told The Daily Star that while the last election did not provide the necessary services for those with disabilities, she has hope this time will be different.
“The current [interior] minister seems to be very serious about human rights ... I don’t expect the same difficulties with her.”