BEIRUT: A group of international observers from an EU mission tasked with monitoring upcoming elections deployed around Lebanon Friday. An initial-36 member short-term monitoring team from the European Union Election Observation Mission joined long-term observers already situated around the country.
“These are important elections for the Lebanese people, not just because they are the first in the country for nine years, but because of the other firsts they introduce: a new proportional system, official printed ballots that allow for more secrecy of voting, and out-of-country voting for Lebanese nationals living abroad,” said Elena Valenciano, the mission’s head and a member of the European Parliament from Spain, according to an EOM statement.
“Our short-term observers have a wealth of experience in election observation which, along with the first-rate reporting which our long-term observers have been doing for the past month, will help us put together a comprehensive picture of how these elections have been conducted,” she said.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri received Valenciano and part of the delegation at his Downtown residence Thursday to discuss preparations for Sunday’s elections.
The delegation also met with President Michel Aoun and Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, who assured them that preparation for the elections was completed and that the security situation was under control.
A mission from the National Democratic Institute, based in Washington D.C., will also be observing Sunday’s elections. The mission, which is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for Democracy, will deploy Saturday morning. The NDI also fielded a mission for Lebanon’s last elections in 2009.
Les Campbell, the NDI’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, told The Daily Star, “We have been in close touch with the EU mission. Both groups are independent so it’s not necessarily a strict coordination but we try to avoid duplication where we can.”
Campbell said the leaderships of both delegations are due to meet Saturday evening to discuss findings to date and strategies for Sunday’s poll.
Both delegations were invited to observe the elections by the Lebanese government with a wide-ranging mandate to assess all aspects of the electoral process.
In addition to the 36 short-term and 24 long-term observers, the EU mission will be made up of a further 40 observers from embassy staff from EU member states based in Beirut, a delegation of seven European MPs, and a core team of analysts and staff from Europe. The team will number over 130 in total, covering all of Lebanon’s voting districts.
The NDI’s 31-strong team will be made up of various civil and political leaders and regional specialists from around the Middle East and North Africa, Europe and North America.
The EU mission will publish its preliminary findings two days after the elections, while the NDI will issue its report Monday.