Lebanon goes to the polls tomorrow (Sunday, May 2nd) for the first round of its 2010 municipal elections. There’s been a good deal of smart commentary of late; see below for a sample of relevant resources on the subject.
1. Lebanon Municipal Elections On Time, But Reform Delayed (by Karam Karam, Arab Reform Bulletin)
Lebanon will begin its municipal elections on May 2, kicking off a four-stage process that will see voting on May 2, 9, 23, and 30 in the governorates of Mount Lebanon and Beirut, the Bekaa, the south, and the north respectively. The government mandated that municipal council elections be held every six years in 1998, following a hiatus that lasted some 35 years. Since the end of the civil war in 1990 and the Taif Accord that stipulated constitutional reforms, Lebanon has held five parliamentary elections and two rounds of local elections, the latter most recently in May 2004. The structural reforms—particularly those pertaining to electoral reform and administrative decentralization—written into the Accord, however, have never been implemented. The issue of reform has been raised before and after each of the elections held since 1990 without ever being translated into concrete measures, and the same is true this time around. (Keep reading)
2. Al-Akhbar editor Khalid Saghiyyeh weighs in with his usual delightfully cynical take…
في تقبيح البلديّات
بدأت ترتفع الأصوات متبرّمةً من الانقسامات التي تشهدها القرى والبلدات اللبنانية. ففي الانتخابات البلديّة، تسقط الشعارات السياسيّة الكبرى، ويبدأ الصراع داخل ما يسمّى احتقاراً، الزواريب. الانقسامات الطاغية اليوم لا تلائم صورة اللبناني عن نفسه. ثمّة طغيان للعصبيّات العائليّة، وولع بالوجاهة، وشجارات على اسم شارع لم يصل إليه الزفت بعد. انتقل الحديث فجأة من الخطر النووي الإيراني والمشروع الأميركي في الشرق الأوسط إلى سجال على أيّ من العائلات أشدّ عراقةً في القرية، وأحقّ تالياً برئاسة البلدية. وبدلاً من الاستشهاد بآخر التحاليل السياسية، تُفتح ملفّات العمادات والأعراس والتعازي.
يجري النقّ كلّ يوم من طغيان هذه الصغائر على الفضاء العام. وإضافة إلى كمّ من المقالات الناقمة على ضيق الأفق هذا، لخّص وليد جنبلاط الموقف برسالة ساخرة امتنع فيها عن الإدلاء بموقف أسبوعيّ إلى جريدة «الأنباء» بسبب ما سمّاه «المعارك التاريخية» الدائرة في البلديات، وأعلن أنّه عاكف حالياً على قراءة ابن خلدون لفهم أسباب التخلّف عن الدول المتحضّرة. كأنّما البيك يرفض الإدلاء بجواهره وسط انشغال العامّة بالترّهات.
ولم يخطر في باله طبعاً الربط بين جواهره السابقة وهذه الترّهات. فالزعيم لا يكتفي بتوفير الظروف الملائمة لاستمرار العصبيّات وتوالدها، إلا أنّه ـــــ على ما يبدو ـــــ يستمتع في أوقات فراغه بالتفرّج على تلك العصبيّات والسخرية منها. فهي حقيقةً لا تليق بزعيم متنوّر.
3. Consensus Prevails Before Municipal Elections (Ana Maria Luca and Matt Nash)
The atmosphere could hardly be more different. At this time last year, the country was awash in party flags, election advertisements and acrimonious language in advance of the June parliamentary elections. Today, however, on the eve of the first round of municipal elections, consensus is the buzzword.
On the streets of Beirut, it is more common to see the flags of Argentina, Brazil or Germany flying from balconies and car windows as the World Cup approaches than it is to see Future Movement, Lebanese Forces or Free Patriotic Movement banners waving, even as polling begins on Sunday.
Several of the country’s top political parties – which analysts have argued do not even want municipal elections now – announced in recent weeks that they will focus on compromise instead of contest during the polling.
If the prominent families and political parties in a municipality can agree on a list of council members, the list wins uncontested and no election takes place. On Tuesday, Interior Minister Ziad Baroud announced that nearly 20 percent of the 313 municipalities in Mount Lebanon – the first governorate to vote – will not hold polls as unity deals were hammered out. (Keep reading)
4. “Worried Lebanese” on the municipal polls: Be sure to read one of my favorite Lebanese bloggers writing on the themes of administrative decentralization and the municipal elections, here, here, and here.
5. Ghassan Karam asks the right questions: “The paradoxical thing however, is that as soon as we determined to hold these elections the major political bosses started their efforts to short circuit the democratic system and attempted to arrange for deals behind smoke filled rooms that result in coalitions and candidates whose choice is designed to achieve one goal only: rob from the citizens their right to vote. If the vote is sacred, and it is, then why do these feudal political lords wish to take away from us the chance to have our say? The answer is very clear; they do not want to diminish their total control over the political system. If we are given the chance to form our own lists of candidates then we would realize that we do not need them to run our lives.” (Keep reading)
6. E-ography on the Lebanese media’s coverage: The tone of local TV reporters covering the municipal elections in Lebanon is hilarious. You assume they are covering the war in Afghanistan or just another 9/11. The phono between studio and field reporters are the most ridiculous “Can you hear me?” is so recurrent that you suppose the reporter is under heavy shelling. “The President Michel Suleiman is now expected to arrive any moment! Yes, yes, I hear you… (pause) allo, allo.” (Keep reading)
7. I highly recommend you check out Engage Lebanon for a wealth of material on the municipal elections, including lots of high quality maps, a newswire, Twitter feed, and lots of resources in Arabic, English, and French.
Where was this organization when we were covering the parliamentary elections last year? Back then, you all had to content yourself with Qifa Nabki’s chintzy graphics and whatever the local manqousheh vendor slipped me in the way of expert analysis. Lebanon’s come a long way…
8. Finally, I hate to risk jinxing myself once again, but I’m theoretically going to be in Washington this Friday for a U.S. Institute of Peace event on the Lebanese municipal elections. The last time this was supposed to happen, my wife went into labor the night before. So I’m not making any promises… But if I do make it down, I’d love to see some of y’all there.