“If there is one legacy I want to leave, as minister of Interior and Municipalities, is at least to attempt introducing a quota whether in the parliamentary or municipal elections”, declared the Minister of Interior and Municipalities, Mrs. Raya Haffar El Hassan during the “Parliamentary Elections 2022: Electoral Reforms and Gender Equality” conference that took place on Thursday 23 May in Beirut.
The conference was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union Delegation to Lebanon under the patronage of H.E. the Minister of Interior, and was attended by members of the parliament, president of the Supervisory Commission for Elections, ambassadors and representatives from the civil society, amongst others.
The objective of this conference is to bring together relevant national and international stakeholders to discuss the possible ways to kick start the talks on electoral reforms to strengthen the fairness and inclusiveness of the next parliamentary elections.
The UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Celine Moyroud, kicked off the opening session with a speech ensuring that “the UN advocates for renewed joint efforts to create a conducive electoral environment and proper conditions for vulnerable and marginalized groups to participate in the process of electing their representatives.” She confirmed that “our future electoral assistance programs will focus more on women, youth and persons with disabilities and will intently reach communities throughout the country."
As for the EU Ambassador to Lebanon Ms. Christina Lassen, she said that "despite the increase in the number of female candidates in the past elections, women remain severely underrepresented in politics in Lebanon", referring to "the current electoral law that did not include effective measures to improve women's political representation". She stressed the fact that the EU Delegation is keen to continue the support provided to elections in Lebanon for the next cycle.
In her speech, Mrs. Haffar Hasan stated that she will continue advocate for electoral reforms for the upcoming 2022 elections. “We have three elections coming up: presidential, municipal and parliamentary. We don’t have a lot of time and we should start now.” She continued saying that the ministry will work with the civil organizations on the reforms and hoped that the support provided from UNDP and EU will continue for the upcoming cycle. The Minister highlighted the importance of increasing the level of participation of voters in elections through enhanced engagement with civil society, persons with disabilities and youth.
The coordinator of the electoral law parliamentary committee, MP George Adwan launched the first session with an intervention on some of the possible technical electoral reforms focusing on the voting and counting processes. He stressed on the necessity to introduce reforms to the Supervisory Commission for Elections and talked about the “electronic card” where citizens can vote from his/her place of residence.
Following his remarks, the UNDP Lebanese Elections Assistance Project, presented the “Gender Key Results: Parliamentary Elections 2018” brochure. The publication includes the results and figures of the 2018 Parliamentary Elections from a gender perspective and puts forward recommendations for a national strategy to endorse and implement reforms in the next electoral cycle. (https://bit.ly/2I8uzQ6).
The launching was followed by a presentation on the results of a questionnaire on “Advocating Reforms: Political Parties and Lebanese Women Participation”, which included interviews conducted with 8 political parties (Kataeb, PSP, FPM, LF, Amal, Future movement, Marada and Hezbollah). The questionnaire aimed to identify the political parties’ stance on endorsing women’s quota in the electoral law and on adopting more gender sensitive measures inside their parties, amongst others.
The second session opened the discussion on “Electoral Reforms 2022” where the chairperson of the Women and child parliamentary committee M.P. Dr. Inaya Ezzeddine, stressed on the need to enhance women’s participation through adopting reserved seats and encouraging political parties to nominate women to run for elections. She said that “the Speaker of the parliament, Mr. Nabih Berri, proposed a quota of 15%, but I believe that it is not enough”.
The chairperson of the Lebanese Union of People with Physical Disabilities Ms. Sylvana Lakkis, reminded the participants of the law 2000/200 which ensures the right of the people with disabilities to access polling stations and centers and practice their political and civic right to vote and run for candidacy in dignity.
As for the vice-president of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, Ms. Abir Chebaro, she mentioned Lebanon's obligations towards the international agreements on human rights and CEDAW. She stressed on the importance to work from a gender perspective in the electoral administration and to adopt a quota and temporary special measures.
The Supervisory Commission for Elections member, Ms. Carine Geagea emphasized on the need to give a greater role to the commission to better monitor the media and electoral campaigns.
Mr. Mohammed Chamseddine tackled during the second session technical aspects and legal amendments that should be considered in the discussions around electoral reforms.