Election Observation Mission
to Lebanon 2009
Financial resources played an excessively large role in the electoral campaign. In addition to reports of direct vote-buying, it was evident that the provision of health, education and other welfare services by permanent foundations and networks affiliated to different political groups played a significant role in achieving electoral support.
The 2008 Election Law introduced regulations for campaign spending and gave the SCEC the mandate to enforce them. Candidates were required by law to open a campaign bank account and to abide by campaign spending limits determined by the size of their prospective constituencies. However, neither the spending regulations nor the SCEC’s resources were of sufficient scope to address the extent to which finances defined the campaign. Auditing of candidates’ financial statements takes place after the elections, with little practical regulation during the campaign period.
Among the four monitored newspapers, Al Mustaqbal attributed two thirds of its political space to March 14 and one quarter to opposition parties.14 Al Akhbar gave reasonably equal space to both blocs15 but was more critical of March 14. An Nahar’s coverage of the opposition was more negative than its coverage of March 14, to which the newspaper also awarded more space.16 As Safir granted roughly equal access to both political blocs but the tone of its reporting was slightly more negative towards March 14 than towards the opposition.17
Election campaigning took place in a generally peaceful environment, despite some isolated incidents, and freedom of movement and assembly were generally respected. Limited competition in the majority of constituencies meant that campaigning activities focused on those constituencies which would effectively determine parliament’s majority. Financial resources played an excessively large role in the campaign and new regulations on spending have yet to have any notable effect on this phenomenon. The provision of welfare services by permanent foundations and networks affiliated to different political groups undoubtedly played a significant role in achieving electoral support. Campaign messages rarely focused on proposed social or economic programs and the effects of the electoral system and of financial resources significantly outweighed any debate on political platforms.