Lebanon, Reform

Clientelism, Vote Buying, and Ballot Reform in Lebanon

Just one example of a ballot paper that could be used for the 2013 elections, pending agreement by political forces. Click to enlarge.

We’re a year away from the next Lebanese parliamentary elections, and there has been no final agreement on the proposed reforms for the next electoral law. Proportional representation seems to be dead in the water. Expatriate voting in overseas embassies may also be a pipe dream at this late stage, and the same goes for lowering the voting age.

There’s still one measure, however, that could have a significant impact on the way elections are conducted in Lebanon, and it’s perfectly doable by next summer. I’m talking about adopting uniform official ballot papers.

Why is this important? For one thing, it could help limit the practice of vote buying, which is thought to be rampant in Lebanon. Adopting uniform ballots would essentially undercut one of the available mechanisms used by political parties to ensure that the people who receive payments for their vote actually fulfill their end of the bargain on Election Day.

I assume that most regular readers of this blog are well aware of how this process works, but for the newcomers and innocents among you, here’s a quick and dirty guide to the fundamentals of getting out the vote in Lebanon.

Ballot Tracking in Lebanon

Under previous electoral laws, there have been very loose regulations on the physical form of a ballot. It is perfectly legal, as far as I know, to scribble the names of your preferred candidates on the wrapper of your morning manqousheh and drop it into the ballot box. As long as the names are legible, the wrapper (but not the manqousheh, alas) would be considered a valid ballot.

In most cases, however, people cast pre-printed ballots prepared by political parties themselves. Drive past a polling station on Election Day, roll down your window, and you’re sure to get half a dozen ballots thrust in your face by party volunteers wearing hats and waving banners. These ballots contain the names of their candidates, helpfully printed out for your convenience so you don’t have to go to the trouble of unwrapping your manqousheh and writing out the names yourself.

The problem is that the use of party-prepared ballots can undermine the secrecy of the vote because these ballots often contain hidden codes that allow them to be tracked. Variations in font and the order of candidates allow party representatives to identify with a considerable degree of accuracy who voted which way.

The current law facilitates this practice, both in the fact that polling stations are segregated by confession, family, and gender, but also by the way in which ballots are counted. Agents of all the political parties are permitted to be present during the counting phase, and every polling station must have a camera and a TV that projects the image of each ballot for every agent to inspect. Ostensibly, this allows the agents to confirm the accuracy of what’s being announced as the names on the ballots. But it also means that the agents have a ‘close-up’ view of the ballots themselves (font, list permutation, etc.) that they can use for tracking purposes.

This does not really work on an individual level. What probably happens in most vote-buying cases is that a party representative will arrange ahead of time to get a stack of coded ballots to the head of a large family or clan, who then promises to guarantee a certain number of votes on election day in exchange for some kind of special privileges: access to health care, educational financial aid, assistance with food or electricity services, maybe even cash. The politician gets the votes (which are identifiable to his agents by the coded ballots during the counting stage) and the family gets the benefits of patronage.

That, in a nutshell, is how it works. But how widespread is this practice?

Dan Corstange, a political scientist at Columbia University, has an article coming out in the next issue of the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies which argues (on the basis of a recently conducted survey/list-experiment) that something like 55% of voters in the last parliamentary elections accepted some form of payment in exchange for their vote. (Thanks to Dan for letting me share an earlier draft of this article.) Anecdotal evidence reported in the press in the build-up to the elections confirmed that record amounts of money were being spent on wooing voters, sometimes flying them in with their families from overseas.

Not as bad as this, but you get the idea

Even if these figures are true, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean that parties are actively using the tracking mechanism to police and discipline all of their constituents. First of all, doing so would require a highly organized approach for every agent at the count, and my conversations with civil society folks and monitors present at some of these polling stations suggest that there is not so much evidence of agents keeping super detailed double accounts of ‘votes won’ and ‘votes cast by whom’.

Furthermore, parties don’t necessarily need to track every single ballot for this method to be effective. Ballot tracking is mainly used for keeping tabs on two kinds of people. The first are those who want to be able to prove they’ve voted in a certain way (i.e. the ones who ‘sell’ votes and who use the ballot to demonstrate they’ve kept their side of the bargain).  The second are those who make up a candidate’s core electorate. However, as one civil society figure I spoke to astutely suggested:

The scale of the practice is not the same thing as the pervasiveness of the problem. The ballot issue’s mythology feeds into the paranoia that za’im-ism must create: how do I know if my ballot isn’t being traced?  This means that even though arguments in favor of official ballots have overemphasized the alleged scale of the practice, they cannot overestimate the scale of the problem, which is simply that voters being pressurized to vote a certain way by providing (whether through intimidation or vote-buying) know that a mechanism exists that allows others to know whether or not they voted in that way. It’s a scandal that Lebanon allows such a practice in the law that runs completely counter to the right of a secret ballot. As such, even if the scale of the practice is small, the impact of the problem is enough to challenge the credibility of the whole electoral process than simply the extent of whether it happens or not.

A New Ballot

Lebanon’s Ministry of the Interior has commissioned the design of an official ballot that could be used in the 2013 election. Under this new system, it would be much more difficult for parties to track the ballots, which would then undermine the vote-buying economy in certain ways, although it is unlikely to collapse it entirely. (See above for a sample of the official ballot, and note that this is just one possible example of what it could look like).

Based on what I’ve been told, most parties have signaled their readiness to allow for official ballots to be adopted, and this may reflect that the tracing of voters through the ballot is not considered to be effective, and perhaps less important, than it used to be. Some parties may also see it as an easy way to look like participants in the reform process, winning plaudits from international observers while in fact doing something that everyone else has done for the last 100 years.

Potential Problems Remain

Even if uniform official ballots are approved for the 2013 elections, this doesn’t necessarily mean that vote buying will not occur. Given that a great deal of patronage spending already takes place outside the electoral season and is not based on a straightforward quid pro quo, parties may decide to keep the financial spigots gushing and just hope that their constituents remember to vote for the right candidates.

There are some dangers to keep in mind, however. We want to avoid a situation whereby official ballots are adopted but the ability for a voter to cross off certain candidates’ names and replace them with others (as is the case under the current law) is dropped. Such a measure would accentuate the ‘block vote’ system and limit the voters’ choice to choosing one list or another rather than a choice between different candidates.

There also remains the potential problem that some people will use their phones to take photos of their marked official ballot while in the voting booth, in order to prove to their patrons that they voted in a certain way. In this case, we’d be trading a low-tech method of ballot tracking for a high-tech one, and I’d be surprised if some enterprising Lebanese doesn’t develop an iPhone app that automates the process entirely, snapping the picture and emailing it to one’s chosen za’im. (Did I say that out loud? Damn it.)

Finally, as another civil society friend remarks, the problem is not just ballots:

“Polling stations are allocated by families, confessions and gender, so it’s pretty easy for vote-buying (which is often negotiated at family higher-level, rather than directly with individuals) to continue to take place even after the introduction of official ballots because we know from the results from every polling station, how certain families voted. (That’s probably why Future and Hizbullah care less about ballot-tracking, as they often exercise party discipline through family structures). Frankly, as important as official ballots are, it will be just as important to address the issue of how the vote is counted, with one option being that we mix the ballots of different polling stations (which would require a change in the law) or we simply stop dividing people into family polling stations (which doesn’t require a legal change as it says nowhere that polling stations should be allocated along family and gender lines).”

There is, of course, a larger philosophical problem to be considered, which is that many Lebanese who benefit from this clientelistic economy prefer that it not be threatened. This is the subject of a future post, maybe later next week…

In the meantime, I’d be cheered to see civil society activists organizing a campaign in favor of this kind of achievable, concrete, practical reform, rather than calling for the end of political feudalism and the immediate creation of the Third Republic. If any of the more design-inclined among you would be interested in creating web banners promoting this initiative, get in touch via the contact form.

Discussion

50 thoughts on “Clientelism, Vote Buying, and Ballot Reform in Lebanon

  1. I think more is being made of this whole “vote-buying” phenomenon than the situation warrants.

    I should hope that people put more value to their vote than a Manqoushe! And if they, the system would not be drastically different from the system in the West. A person’s vote is worth something. And if Saad Hariri of Hassan Nasrallah bought his vote for a Lira today, and he doesn’t get something delivered tomorrow, He’d be the first to squeal like a beached whale!

    I agree that the problem- insomuch that it does exist- happens at a much higher level, and I believe that this is really not all that different from what happens in the Western world. [Case in point, recent G20 meeting in Toronto, and the decision to hold key meeting in the Finance's minister rural outpost where a lot of money was spent]. Cronyism exists, it is a problem, it must be solved. But it is not the problem. (And I don’t read in this post much beyond the issue of cronyism).

    The last point made (by Civil Society friend) is perhaps bringing out the bigger issue- and that is trust.

    Is the level of trust so low that one is willing to entertain going to such lengths to try and hide who voted in what way? At some point, the result itself betrays the truth. And if people are going to feel “pressured” into voting a certain way, perhaps the problem lies elsewhere.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 12, 2012, 9:14 am
  2. I will agree with Gabriel that this vote buying is way overblown. Politicians in the West constantly “bribe” their constituents by providing government funding (even when it’s not warranted)…see above example.

    Service ministries are used to provide more benefits to certain areas in Lebanon and everywhere else in the world. Pork Barrel politics is very well known to you guys south of the border…(I mean USA lol…So AIG stay calm) :D

    There are varying ways of bribery and vote buying. I really feel sad that Lebanese will sell their votes for a couple of hundred dollars every four years…I remember stories about sacks of Liras at Polls when the money used to be inserted in small sandwiches and given to the “voters” (This was done by Joseph Skaff in Zahle for years).

    As for the tracking of votes; there is no sinister motive here. I have worked and I am still involved in politics in Canada. We do hard canvasses and soft ones. Door to door as well as telephone polling to get our vote out during election day.

    The biggest problem in Lebanon is the lack of freedom and choices; not the vote buying.

    Posted by danny | June 12, 2012, 9:35 am
  3. QN,

    Perhaps you can post some more details on the 55% number? How many of these people would have voted at all if they were not paid? How many would have voted differently if they were not paid? How many would have voted the same even if they were not paid?

    Because without some context, this 55% number makes the whole election process seem useless and your problem is a little more serious than tracking of the ballots.

    Posted by AIG | June 12, 2012, 10:50 am
  4. There is a huge difference between pork barrel politics and bribing voters directly. Pork barrel politics at least benefits a whole district and it is also quite transparent. A partial solution to pork barrel politics is bigger districts. In Israel the problem is minor because all the country is one district.

    Posted by AIG | June 12, 2012, 10:54 am
  5. QN,
    If I am not mistaken the Ballots that the Ministry of The Interior has in mind ( the one whose image accompanies this post) are meant to work for a proportional electoral system. These pre printed ballots would not be useful under the current system where the elector has the right to pick and choose from all the ones that are running. If the current system is maintained then one will either vote the whole list of a particular party or the government must supply a preprinted ballot with the names of all candidates.
    Danny, the difference between vote buying and pork barrel voting is the difference between night and day.
    Measured on a per capita basis the Lebanese elections are the most expensive in the world. US elections don’t even come close. (US presidential elections are expected to cost about $2 billion this round. if 150 million people vote then that is under $14 per vote. Can you imagine a round of parliamentary elections in Lebanon for $35 million).

    Posted by gkaram | June 12, 2012, 12:42 pm
  6. Mathematics, Districts and the Number Game

    Going back to the discussion in the last thread and continuing on in this one… It seems to me that the same theme is discussed ad-nauseum.

    There is an underlying “Truth”, a mathematical truth, and that is: Each and every voter will vote one way or the other.

    There is another “political” layer to this underlying fact, which is what is constantly brought up:

    1) Why did a person vote one way or the other
    2) How are the votes aggregated into “districts”, “regions”, etc to declare a “Winner”
    3) Other questions that follow in the same vein.

    Certain things to me appear to be rather obvious:

    1) On the question of Why, the answer could be quite complex. It may be that one feels strongly about a political issue (a Staunch Arab nationalist may be inclined to vote one way or the other irrespective of political platform). It may be that there is an Economic benefit to voting one way or the other (Old people in Canada tend to vote for the party that most strongly supports socialized health care, Younger yuppies tend to vote for fiscally conservative parties). I think the debate on “vote-buying” and “clientism” is interesting, but the absurd lengths to which it may go is apparent in the link that QN put to a post he wrote back in 2009:- an analysis (if one were to believe it) of the numbers of people who came to Lebanon during an election year.

    2) The question of How relates to many of the other issues that have brought up. The most recent example being Monolith’s inability to register himself in Beirut. The political parties want districts in certain ways that benefit them. Others don’t want those districts in those ways because they don’t benefit them, etc. Related also is QN’s numerous discussion points on PR (which continues on to this post)

    I think that when the discussion devolves to those “depths” (and it is depths we are discussing here), it is perhaps a testament that the resolution of the core issue- Trust- is still outstanding.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 12, 2012, 12:42 pm
  7. The distinction that AIG is making is the difference between divisible and indivisible goods, the former being straight up vote-buying and the latter being district-wide pork barrel. The problem, of course, is that a lot of what we’re talking about (in Lebanon but also in places where we speak of “pork barrel” instead of corruption) is actually “club goods” that are less divisible but often exclusive to members of the club. And in Lebanon, the club is often defined by identity, be it sect, clan or family.

    To my mind, the clientelism that Lebanon clearly suffers from needs to be addressed from the demand side, because many citizens need clientelism, since the state is so terrible at supplying public goods. Of course, the rub is that those who are capable of reforming the state so that it could provide truly public goods are also those whose political and financial power would be threatened if the state were capable of providing those goods.

    Posted by sean | June 12, 2012, 1:03 pm
  8. Ghassan:

    Perhaps you can throw the number in to this discussion to make the discussion thread more complete. How much does the average Lebanese election cost the Lebanese tax payer?

    But as an aside. I don’t know what you mean when you say there is a Distinction between Vote-Buying and Pork Barrel spending. Insomuch as there is a distinction, it needs to be spelled out.

    For instance, the example that QN repeats about the “flying in of voters”, in which some effort was spent on data processing of airport traffic during election season, etc… is no smoking gun. “100000” people flown in, or “20000” people flown in makes not an iota of difference. Who paid? Where is the evidence of this payment?

    Perhaps I may make my intentions clear on this forum: for the chance for an All-Expense-Paid vacation paid for by anyone willing to buy my vote :). I will vote for whoever pays for this ticket! And just to be clear, I am legally allowed to vote in Lebanon!

    And given that I’ve never spent less than a $1000 to fly into Lebanon (more like $2000), I should say that the coffers must have pulled out a healthy sum (100 million) just for flying over all those people. Surely an alarm bell or two must have gone off with these sums being questioned!

    I say, if a few thousand liras is all that it takes to coerce the majority of Lebanese to vote one way or the other, and they are not overly concerned over the political platforms being presented before them, then who are we complain about the outcome?

    Posted by Gabriel | June 12, 2012, 1:57 pm
  9. Gabriel,
    The questions that you raise are important and I will try to address them later on with some “solid” figures. As for the distinction between selling a vote and pork barrel it is the difference between alightening and lightening bug. This does not qualify as an answer either and so I will also try to say a few words about this issue later on.
    Meanwhile you and others might be interested in taking a look at the most detailed (60 pages) document about the potential plan for the electoral system as proposed by the government. This is an official versio as it was published by the Lebanese government. For those that do not want to read all the 60 pages, you must take a look at Article 98 Proportional Representation and also another look at pages 50-55 that show different scenarios of parliamentary seat allocations.

    http://www.moim.gov.lb/UI/moim/PDF/DraftLaw2013_English_Final.pdf

    Article 98 is very instructive. It describes what the government means when they speak of proportional representation which ,unfortunately is very much misunderstood by the general public. I have yet to ask a Lebanese to explain in his or her own words what is meant by proportional representation and get anything close to the correct answer. Just like secularism, it is a very misunderstood concept and the government has not bothered to explain accurately what the system implies neither has the press.

    Posted by gkaram | June 12, 2012, 2:33 pm
  10. Gabriel,
    Just an aside to your remark about getting a free trip to Lebanon in order to vote. I will be willing to bet that you have voted in every Lebanese election without your knowing it l0l.
    Let me give you an example: ( These are not exact figures but close enough to make the point) The official lists of eligible voters in Lebanon is about 3.6 million. It is also estimated that over 1/3 of these voters are outside the country. So if the records show a 60% turn out that would actually be around 92%. If on the other hand the turn out is 66% then that would actually be 100% of the residents. Give me a break.

    Posted by gkaram | June 12, 2012, 2:58 pm
  11. GK …

    Hahahahah. Touche. You may well be right. I wonder who I ended up voting for ;).

    Posted by Gabriel | June 12, 2012, 3:57 pm
  12. I thought I’d research election costs and Google led me to this:

    http://qifanabki.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/ifes-electoral-systems-introduction-21-dec-09.pdf

    QN has become Self-Referential. That’s God status in some books.

    Since I’m a sucker for numbers and nice graphs and charts. I’d say it’s worth a read.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 12, 2012, 5:37 pm
  13. Gabriel, would you like a raise?
    ;)

    I’ll respond to all the great questions with some not so great answers a bit later.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 12, 2012, 6:05 pm
  14. Gabriel,
    A comment on the two issues that were referred to above:

    (1) I do not believe that I have to respond to the issue about the great difference between pork barrel and vote buying except to remind you that essentially the difference is that between private goods and public goods. I know of no organization anywhere in the world that condones vote buying. Actually it is universally derided as the worst possible offense in any electoral system. Those who sell their votes are defeating the whole idea behind the franchise. Votes go to the party with the deepest pockets and not the one with the better ideas. Add to that the fact that those who are motivated by pork barrel spending are at least being motivated by what is good for the community and not only the individual. A highway , once built, is open to use by everyone and if used by one motorist the that does not prevent another motorist from access to the highway until it becomes congested. A private good on the other hand, give an individual an airline ticket, is limited to that individual and once she has used it no body else can partake in it. If that is not clear enough then I will be willing to go into greater details.

    (2) Cost of elections in Lebanon.
    Like most things Lebanese there are no real hard figures on this. Only rough estimates and hopefully, rational conclusions. Let me start by addressing your question about the cost to the Lebanese tax payer. It is almost zilch because one can look at electoral campaigns as being very beneficial to the Lebanese economy. They pump massive amounts of money into the system. A cynic would suggest shortening the electoral term to two years in order to help the economy.
    Many, including yours truly, are often complaining about Lebanon and its corrupt system… All of that is true but yet the system is still the most democratic in its neighbouhood. Many reports have been issued by all sorts of organizations: European Union, Congressional Research Service, Soros funded Open society and other NGOs about the Lebanese elections of 2005 and 2009. Practically each of the reports coe to the same conclusion. Elections in Lebanon are not all that bad but the system suffers of major flaws such as vote in place of origin instead of place of residence,not enough female participation, lack of government issued ballots etc.. but what all refer to as a huge problem is vote buying. Lebanon has enacted some laws regarding campaign finance but these laws have very loose standards and are not implemented. But we are on the right track.
    So how much is spent? An awful lot. The NYT has often described the 2009 campaign in Lebanon as the most expensive elections in the world by far. Technically the Lebanese law permits a candidate to spend $2.66 per registered voter in addition to a $100,000 per candidate. This is never enforced and is easily avoided because of the banking secrecy laws. Any candidate can spend as much as he wants from his own account and no one will ever know the difference. Yet let us assume that the total candidates number 320 i.e. only 2.5 per seat. A simple multiplication of the minimum $100,000 times the 320 candidates gives us a figure of $32million. Add to that the almost $10 million that results from multiplying the 3.6 registered voters times $2.66. Sum up these two and one gets an absolute minimum of $42million.
    The rest is more speculative but again the NYT and others, such as the above post in QN, have pointed to the fact the primary reason for opposing a uniform government ballot is the ability to trace vote buying. Some have aked for a minimum of $800 per vote but obviously that is not true of every voter some can be bought for as little as $100 each. Besides the cash payment one has to look at payment-in-kind which HA excells in and the method has been followed by others. Even the Kataeb were running an ad on their web site in 2009 encouraging people to vote for them in return for medicine. That is a big issue in a country where health insurance is out of reach for the majority of the people and a country whose per capita income is more like $7000 per annum. Besides these one must take into consideration the cost of favourable coverage by the print and TVoutlets. That is over and above the cost of an official ad. TV outlets will sell a good coverage and so would newspapers and magazines. I have seen some estimates that claim that the 2009 campaign total cost approached a $billuion. That might be tru but probably is on the high side.If one is to add all the estin=mates of transportation within Lebanon, room and board for one day, the official campaign (literature and advisers) TV, vote buying for cash, cost of air travel (15000 times $1000) , buying out opponents among other expenses it will be difficult to arrive at a figure less than $300 million. I suggest that we dismiss the $1 billion as well as the $300 million and settle on the round figure of $500 million.
    And here is the figure that you were waiting for: less than 2 million voters at a cost of $500 million in expenditure i.e an absolute minimum of $250 per vote cast which is at least 16 times larger than the cost of the US elections .
    Lebanon, is unique in more than one way, benefits from these elections . Saudi Arabia is estimated by some of its own officials to have spent over $200 million in 2009 on Lebanese elections. Let us assume that was matched by Iran. Then as you can see the huge expenditures are essentially inflows of funds plus some expenditures by Lebanese billionaires that are filthy rich anyway.

    Posted by gkaram | June 12, 2012, 6:59 pm
  15. AIG

    I don’t have any more info on the 55% figure besides what appears in the article (which is linked to above). Check it out. As a friend remarked to me, though, there’s a huge difference between being courted with a lavish dinner or treated to a special one-time rate at a health clinic, and being given a wad of cash to vote one way or another. (Or, for that matter, for accepting money NOT to vote).

    Ghassan,

    That’s right: the ballot example above would be for a PR system. I’m sure they have other models for majoritarian systems.

    I have a post coming soon with a few helpful links to good explanations of the PR system under consideration.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 12, 2012, 7:53 pm
  16. Sean,

    I have some great articles to share on the question of clientelism and politics in Lebanon. Later this week, inshallah. Should make for an interesting discussion.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 12, 2012, 7:54 pm
  17. QN,
    I am sure that you have a good explanation of the PR that is being proposed but in case that you might have missed it ( which I doubt) I did give Gabriel in a post at 2:33 the link to the English language Electoral system explanation from the Ministry of the Interior.

    Posted by gkaram | June 12, 2012, 8:19 pm
  18. Gaby certainly does deserve a raise for his illuminating????s

    Posted by lally | June 12, 2012, 10:09 pm
  19. I don’t know if this was noted earlier by someone.
    The new ballot picture in the post does NOT imply that a voter has to choose a complete slate. The instructions are meant to ensure that IF a voter wants to check a whole slate then he/she can do so for ONLY ONE such slate, for obvious reasons. The voter still can mix and match as implied by the small check box next to each candidate.
    I agree the instructions can be confusing to most but the nerdiest logicians.

    Posted by honestpatriot | June 13, 2012, 4:08 am
  20. NO,No,No HP. The voter MUST vote for only one list plus two preferential votes also from the same list. Article 97 section 3 of the proposed PR law makes it clear that if one votes for a list and a preferential candidate from that list and a second preferential candidate from another list then none of the preferential votes shall count.
    I am sure that mix and match will be an option in a majoritarian ballot.

    Posted by gkaram | June 13, 2012, 6:25 am
  21. Ghassan,

    I can’t disagree any more :).

    Maybe I’ll respond by bringing in a Canadian example:

    http://www.ndp.ca/press/national-drug-strategy-could-save-billions

    You write:

    Besides the cash payment one has to look at payment-in-kind which HA excells in and the method has been followed by others. Even the Kataeb were running an ad on their web site in 2009 encouraging people to vote for them in return for medicine. That is a big issue in a country where health insurance is out of reach for the majority of the people and a country whose per capita income is more like $7000 per annum.

    So let me ask you. Really, what is the essential difference between those two scenarios. One- completely “legal”, and the other apparently quite nefarious?

    Bear in mind the context of Elias’s original post, in which he discussed the standardized official ballot form. He is a proponent of this change for a simple reason- which he explains in some detail. Apparently, the ancien-to-be voting system was flawed because those old Ballot papers had tell tale markers (font size, etc) that allowed the “Investor” to check on his ROI. I call the vote buyer an investor quite intentionally. Why does this investor want to check on the ROI at all?

    In your example, the vote is not in fact a commodity that is bought. For all you know, one may have accepted payment, and NOT voted in the way he should have.

    In Elias’s example about Free Plane tickets to Lebanon. There is much we don’t know. Did anyone (MP) pay for those tickets? Is there evidence of this payment? Who did they pay? And did those who were paid in fact vote for that particular candidate?

    Canada’s NDP party “promises” to introduce a national Prescription drug plan. Read that as: the NDP, if you vote for them will PAY for your drugs (Well they’ll use tax $ to do so). How is that different from the Kataeb or HA proposition?

    I can think of 1 essential difference.

    The difference is that in Canada… you the voter, votes based on a “Promise” by a Political Party that may be fulfilled or not.

    In Lebanon, under the “voter-buying” scheme, you the voter, can get a payment, and then stick it to the Party who paid you by voting for the other person!

    As far as Risk is concerned. Is there anyone MORE empowered than the Lebanese voter!

    Hell they should accept those medications from the Kataeb chap AND the Hizballah chap. Then they should vote as they please!

    You will see how quickly the system will Self-Regulate as a result :).

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2012, 10:09 am
  22. It’s fascinating, but also a little frustrating, to see how these comments have developed in to some sort of messy high-school debate on whether political platform promises equate with vote-buying. And bravo to Gabriel for a spectacular if misguided attempt at redefining the scandal of the current system as something positive if one takes a neo-classical economic perspective.

    Let’s get back to the issue. Is there anyone out there who has a single sensible reason why the current system of scrappy ballots should not be changed? The current system is simply wrong: we have the right to a secret ballot – it’s guaranteed by the Constitution and a whole bunch of treaties that we’ve signed – but yet there can be no secrecy when ballots can be traced. Introducing ballots will mean that, finally, the rights of the voter begin to have priority over political game players. And for once, this is a reform that has nothing to do with confessionalism…

    Posted by electionguerrilla | June 13, 2012, 11:15 am
  23. ElectionGuerrilla:

    Don’t misunderstand my post. The ballot should be secret, and the forms should be standardized and non-traceable.

    That will regulate the issue of “voter-buying” before you can say Bob’s your uncle.

    It is the simplest and most obvious “reform”, and warrants no discussion at all.

    The point I was trying to raise is that there seems to be constant “trust related” issues around the question of voter buying. And the lines easily blur. In my view, the Health Care example that Ghassan brings up is a case in point. And it begs the question as to whether the reasons behind the argument truly are related to ballot tracing, or if there is a bigger underlying issue.

    My suspicion is that it’s the latter.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2012, 11:27 am
  24. Gabriel,
    If you persist on disregarding the difference between public goods and private goods then this discussion is going no where. Actually, the subject matter is so clear, that I am surprised that it is even being discussed. Anyway, I thought that your primary interest was the cost of the election process .

    Posted by gkaram | June 13, 2012, 11:44 am
  25. Gabriel,
    I really should not be commenting on this issue again but since I am not sure whether you are being deliberately provocative or whether you do not see the difference between public goods and private ones I will add this.
    It is not only the ballot that should be secret but also the vote should not be for sale to the highest bidder.
    When NDP promises a healthcare benefit it is in effect promising to set up an entitlement for all the citizens for a long period of time while when Kataeb/HA/Future etc… buy your vote for 10 Viagras then no one else gets to participate and once your 10 pills are gone then they are gone. Elections is supposed to be about ideas, vision and beliefs not about bribes.

    Posted by gkaram | June 13, 2012, 11:54 am
  26. Gabriel, that’s fair enough. Although I’m always happy to see economic arguments appearing out of nowhere.

    I agree that there are bigger issues to the ballot than traceability, but I also think that those issues aren’t limited to the ballot. The whole system is rotten (and I don’t mean by that the electoral system, I mean all the nonsense about voting in places of origin, voting at 21, voting in male/female polling stations) and is all about ensuring the voters’ convenience counts for nothing.

    Posted by electionguerrilla | June 13, 2012, 11:59 am
  27. Secret ballots of course do not solve the issue of voter buying at all. The buyers adjust and pay based on results in a certain voting station. The buyers know at which station the seller votes and they know the results coming from each specific station (this is unavoidable in fair elections). The buyer tells the seller that unless the buyer gets at least x% of the vote in that specific station, the seller does not get paid or does not get some extra bonus payment. Historically this has worked well and it works especially well in areas where families live together and vote in the same station.

    Posted by AIG | June 13, 2012, 11:59 am
  28. Ghassan,

    My intent is to have the whole story described. Including the cost of elections. I quite like the idea that QN has become a repository of very useful information. And this is thanks, in no small part, to you as well, who have offered much factual statistics to help round off and supplement data that Elias has provided.

    I don’t agree with your reading of my example. There is nothing that obligates the NDP to deliver on its promises- except the risk of not being elected 4 years later in the next election.

    Also, (and this may be a naive shortcoming on my end), maybe I don’t understand your Viagra story. What exactly are you saying? That when the Kataeb offers viagras only to certain people? they only make their offer open to a certain subset of society? The offer does not stand for “everyone”? How do they go about selecting who to make the offer to? And how do we know that those they offered Viagra to actual voted for them? If the Kataeb ran an ad in 2009 suggesting to people to vote for them in exchange for Medicine… how is this not a “Public Good” now? It seems, when one phrases the incident as you did, that the offer was open to the Public!

    I am not being facetious. I am quite curious.

    I will repeat myself….

    The debate CANNOT devolve into some thesis-like discussion on who flew who in to vote for the elections last time around. If Saad Hariri, the billionaire, decided to fly in some hitherto unknown family living in Rio, Brazil to Lebanon for a week of frolicking in the beaches of Saida. And those family/friends happened to come in around election time. And those family/friends could vote. And those family voted for Saad Hariri (if that could in fact be proven)… who are you or me to complain? It’s his money. He can do with it whatever he damn well pleases to do.
    Unless of course he expropriated or misappropriated public funds for this.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2012, 1:14 pm
  29. http://qifanabki.com/2012/06/12/lebanon-vote-buying-ballot-reform/comment-page-1/#comment-36589

    AIG,

    Can you translate this post to English? Isn’t that tantamount to Fraud? How does the “Buyer” convince the “Seller” of giving him “x%” of the vote. The “Seller” can only account for himself. And the counting can happen once all the votes are cast. So how does the seller influence the results?

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2012, 1:28 pm
  30. Gabriel,
    Of course these payment-in-kind are a one time deal and forhwhoever the person in charge desires. That is why it is vote buying, vote by vote. It is not about services available to all and it is not about an entitlement. This is not what elections are about. You are free to come up with an explanation that is satisfactory to you that buying individual votes is part of the game but I challenge you to name a single country or a single organization anywhere in the world that condones the practice.

    Posted by gkaram | June 13, 2012, 1:58 pm
  31. Gabriel,

    Of course any vote buying is fraud. The buyer does not convince the seller to give him x% of the vote. He just promises to pay or give a bonus only if at least x% is achieved.

    The vote seller knows that he will not get paid unless a certain amount of people vote for the buyer. So, he has an incentive to vote for the buyer himself and to convince others to vote for the buyer. The seller also knows that the buyer has the same arrangement with other sellers that vote in the same station, and in closely knit communities there is peer pressure to vote for the buyer so that everybody gets the “bonus”. It works well.

    Posted by AIG | June 13, 2012, 2:14 pm
  32. AIG

    If you read the entire post, you’ll see that your point was addressed by the second civil society friend, who argued:

    Frankly, as important as official ballots are, it will be just as important to address the issue of how the vote is counted, with one option being that we mix the ballots of different polling stations (which would require a change in the law) or we simply stop dividing people into family polling stations (which doesn’t require a legal change as it says nowhere that polling stations should be allocated along family and gender lines).

    In other words, if we aggregate voting results from multiple polling stations and allow people to vote where they live (instead of with their extended family which has now been spread out all over the country and indeed the world), then the problem you mention no longer applies.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 13, 2012, 3:28 pm
  33. Side question to everyone else:

    Should I keep the “Rate This” feature on comments? It slows down page loading a little bit, and I’m not sure it adds anything…

    Rate this comment with a thumbs up if you’d like me to keep it. Rate down if you don’t like it (or don’t care).

    Thx.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 13, 2012, 3:31 pm
  34. I don’t know if this “Peer Pressure” argument is resolved by QN’s Civil Society friend’s technique. What if those family members still happen to live in the same communities.

    And even if they didn’t, who’s to say that the sort of “Family Pressure” wouldn’t coerce people to vote one way or the other anyways? People succumb to family pressure all the time in the Middle East on much broader and fundamental topics that affect their lives…like getting the job their family want them to get, marrying the sort of person their family wants them to marry, etc, etc, etc….

    Is this a culture thing? Is the lesson that ought to be learned not that the voting process needs to be made more complex, more inconvenient, etc… but that really people ought not to feel those sorts of pressures in the first place, even if one were to be able to guess who voted what?

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2012, 4:00 pm
  35. QN,

    Aggregation is a huge mistake. The way you mitigate fraud is by having representatives from all parties counting at each station WITHOUT having anyone move the ballot boxes to some location. You do away with this, and you get massive fraud. Moving is bad enough, but also mixing? That will make ballot stuffing real easy because no one can say things like: It does not make sense that in this LF voting station in Zahle (ok, I’m thinking of arak) Aoun got so many votes. All the tell tale signs of fraud would disappear. This suggestion is just a case of from the frying pan into the fire.

    Posted by AIG | June 13, 2012, 4:21 pm
  36. Ghassan,

    In my view “Public Goods” and “Private Goods” belong in a spectrum. They are not 2 discrete points on a line. Universal Health Care, the Military are on one end of this spectrum- public to the “maximum” extent of what the word public may mean. Everyone does benefit from universal health care. Everyone does benefit from the police force.

    Building ice rinks, and beautifying parks in Huntsville, Ontario, to the tune of millions of dollars may be a “public” good. But less so in the spectrum of Public-Private. Sure a Vancouverite is welcome to enjoy Muskoka any time he wants, but his access to this expenditure cannot be compared to my access, or more still to a resident of the town. This type of expenditure is not for a public good in the same way that Health care may be.

    I also don’t think that “Private” goods can be reduced to being expendable items. If Saad Hariri decided to “buy votes” from this or that person by gifting him a Villa, this good is “permanent”, unlike say an Advil or Viagra pill.

    Also, as you pointed out, those sorts of elections seem on the whole to be a good thing for Lebanon’s economy. A spike in visitor numbers. People bringing more money into the country, contributing to the money velocity. And that in itself is a “public good” [This is altogether different from the situation in the Western world, where the funds to conduct an election comes from the country's coffers, and not from the "Outside"].

    I do not know what really happens in Lebanon. To what extend there is “vote-buying”, or what one considers “vote-buying”. The Liberal party at the time of the G8 meetings here jumped all over the Conservative party for the “pork-barrel” spending, and the media rather loosely referred to the spending as “voter-buying”.

    I don’t know if people consider the millions that Iran injects into Lebanon, and which Hizballah uses to build Hospitals and Schools and whathave you as “Vote-Buying”.

    I don’t know if people in Lebanon really do squander their votes so cheaply for a Shawarma sandwich or a viagra pill, and that in fact the sort of phenomenon you are bringing up really ends with that Shawarma sandwich, or if in reality the real “back-scratching” happens after the election win.

    What has been presented to date on the comments section @ QN is not at all clear or well defined.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2012, 4:24 pm
  37. I agree with AIG on this point.

    Which brings me back to what I think is absurd in this discussion. People are so distrustful of the process that they are proposing ever more absurd solutions to mitigate against the concern against the concern against the concern. Before you know it, someone is going to propose that in order to conduct an election, the Lebanese government should randomly select groups of thousands of people, ship them off to different localities, jumble up their choices, using a complex algorithm. Have other officials jumble up the jumbled up choices to make sure that the first Jumblers were not biased. Then have yet another set of officials count the votes.

    The results are then jumbled up so that no one knows which set of which Lebanese voted which way.

    And maybe then we can resolve the problem of Voter Buying and Voting Fraud!

    Oh… and the fact that family members may feel peer-pressured to vote a certain way!

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2012, 4:32 pm
  38. Gabriel,
    I keep saying that I do not want to comment on this any longer but then I do:-) You cannot make up your own definitions just to stick to a point of view. A private good by definition is one that once you consume then no body else can consume. It is yourts , you buy an apple and you eat it end of story. A public good is available to all. Anyone can use it and if it is used by someone then that does not prevent others from using it. Obviously when one sells his vote for cash that is the ultimate private good. One is free to do whatever one wants with that $100 bill and the vote can be sold once. Elections are not a referendum about private benefits. They are about collective goods. They are driven by the idea that the good of the commonwealth trumps personal goods anytime of the day. Elections motivated by private interests are a sign that the system is corrupt, bankrupt and dysfunctional.
    Yes from a purely economic perspective Lebanon benefits from the elections. About half a billion dollars flow into the economy from foreign governments and the handful of Lebanese billionaires let go aogf a few hundreds more millions. But to argue that the system is good would be similar to saying that a clan that runs an illegal operation by sticking up tourists or whatever is good because it increases the wealth of the clan. Yes, Lebanon benefits indirectly from these sham, corrupt elections but it would benefit much more from having educated responsible citizens that would cast their votes based on ideas and based on collective good. Obviously the candidates themselves can also help reform the system by refusing to buy votes. Also the government can cut down on all the corruption by adopting easy and simple reforms such as: (1) remove bank secrecy on the candidates in order to prevent expenditures from their personal accounts. (2) Make voting based on place of residence and not origin. (Beirut has more than half of the Lebanese population but only a quarter of them vote in Beirut. BTW, place of origin does not mean place of birth, it follows the government registry of your parents. I was born in the Chouf but was registered in Metn.
    (3) Give the female voters more rights. A married woman votes at her husbands place of origin although she might have never been there. (4) Adopt an official ballot and disallow any kind of markings on it (5) Implement rigorously the finance records and subject violators to large fines (6) get rid of sectarian voting at all levels.

    Posted by gkaram | June 13, 2012, 5:45 pm
  39. Ghassan: No point in arguing much further, but a couple of points:

    Elections are not a referendum about private benefits. They are about collective goods. They are driven by the idea that the good of the commonwealth trumps personal goods anytime of the day. Elections motivated by private interests are a sign that the system is corrupt, bankrupt and dysfunctional.

    This may be the “ideal”. But in fact the healthiest of Western democracies don’t always operate on that principle.

    Yes from a purely economic perspective Lebanon benefits from the elections. About half a billion dollars flow into the economy from foreign governments and the handful of Lebanese billionaires let go aogf a few hundreds more millions. But to argue that the system is good …

    I am not arguing that the system is good. Only that the action/system provides “Public Good”. Even to those who do not wittingly take part in it. The distinction is quite important.

    Therefore public good, or public “economic” benefit is not necessarily the metric one should always use to judge an action. And that’s the central point.

    You never answered… in your view, does financial aid that Iran provides, and which Hizballah uses to provide social, educational and health services to vast swathes of the Lebanese population qualify as vote-buying?

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2012, 7:09 pm
  40. AIG

    As far as I know, ballot aggregation is a standard practice in many democracies. ElectionGuerilla can correct me if I’m wrong.

    I don’t think there’s so much of a danger of ballot stuffing under the current law because of all the mandated observers. By allowing every political party to send agents to observe the count along with international monitors and local civil society groups, it becomes very difficult to tamper with the results. You seal the boxes at each station, put them in a van with a bunch of monitors and party agents and Ministry of Interior reps, and take them to a central counting station. Even if you aggregate as few as 4 or 5 boxes, this could make a difference.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 13, 2012, 7:26 pm
  41. Gabriel #7:09,
    I can see how this can go on forever. To answer your question directly: Yes it is vote buying because the program is not set up for everyone and there are no specific criteria about who is elligible and who is not. It simply states: there is a quid pro quo your vote in return for some medicine. No guarantees but we will favour you with some drugs provided you vote for us.
    It just so happens that I am familiar with a case in the Metn. An individual cannot afford to buy medicine for a serious medical issue. He contacts one person who contacts another and another. Ultimately they get to an HA “big shot” who agrees to provide a certain quantity of the medicine for almost peanuts. The only request is to support the FPM ticket next year. Is this vote buying? What if the guy insists that his vote is not for sale? Is there a government program that would have supplied him with the medicine? Should such a potent medicine be distributed through people who are at best political muscle? Is the medicine the real thing or an inexpensive copy that expired six months ago?… It is a rotten system that is responsible for the rotten governance that we have. You are right we have probably exhausted this thread.

    Posted by gkaram | June 13, 2012, 7:44 pm
  42. Ghassan,

    As I was the one to poke the hornet’s nest…Let’s not try to be naive and think Pork barrel politics only benefits the public good and someone else from the other South suggested…

    Here’s a few examples of “pork” gone wild…

    http://www.akdart.com/pork3.html

    Just saying. :D

    Posted by danny | June 13, 2012, 7:49 pm
  43. I’m Baaaaack

    QN, I found the time to address a post from last week where you said:

    I’d say that Saad Hariri occupies a position not unlike that of George W. Bush, who became more and more of an embarrassment to Republicans as his tenure wore on, and is often ridiculed by conservative pundits today.

    I replied:

    QN,

    Can you provide this long list of Republicans and conservatives who are “embarrassed” by or who have “ridiculed” GWB?

    I liked GWB, despite the typically biased US news media.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 10, 2012, 11:56 am

    And you countered:

    Bush’s two terms were a catastrophe for America abroad. Real fiscal conservatives and foreign policy realists understand that, and are increasingly unfazed by saying it publicly.

    Akbar Palace: Eric Cantor, Alan Greenspan, Paul Ryan, Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam, Bruce Bartlett, Dick Clarke, Andrew Sullivan, Dana Rohrabacher…. One could go on.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 10, 2012, 2:09 pm

    And now my reply:

    QN,

    Yes, please go one and on. Either the person you mentioned is relatively unknown, or not a real conservative, or there is no information supporting your statement.

    1.) Eric Cantor? What evidence do you have that he thinks “Bush’s two terms were a catastrophe”?

    2.) Alan Greenspan?

    What makes you think he’s so conservative? He married one of the most liberal, anti-Israel reporters in the MSM, Andrea Mitchell:

    http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=3&x_outlet=16&x_article=2060

    3.) Paul Ryan What evidence do you have that he thinks “Bush’s two terms were a catastrophe? Ryan is supposed to be a fiscal conservative and has criticized both parties for not doing enough to reduce spending. That’s all I’m aware of.

    4.) Ross Douthat Ditto. Who is he and why does he matter?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_Douthat

    5.) Bruce Bartlett Beside being an independent, who is he and why does he matter?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Bartlett

    6.) Dick Clarke?

    Richard Clarke was a political hack who started pointing fingers while he was supposed to be protecting the US from the NSA…

    Clarke came to widespread public attention for his role as counter-terrorism czar in the Clinton and Bush administrations in March 2004, when he appeared on the 60 Minutes television news magazine, released his memoir about his service in government, Against All Enemies, and testified before the 9/11 Commission. In all three instances, Clarke was sharply critical of the Bush administration’s attitude toward counter-terrorism before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and of the decision to go to war with Iraq. Following Clarke’s strong criticisms of the Bush administration, Bush administration officials and other Republicans attempted to discredit him or rebut his criticisms, making Clarke a controversial figure.

    http://www.richardaclarke.net/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_A._Clarke

    7.) Andrew Sullivan

    I don’t know much about this person except he’s changed his POV several times as noted in Wiki…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Sullivan

    8.) Dana Rohrbacher What evidence do you have that he thinks “Bush’s two terms were a catastrophe”?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dana_Rohrabacher

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 13, 2012, 9:18 pm
  44. QN,

    I am not aware of any country that has ballot aggregation and could not find any with a rudimentary search. Perhaps I am not using the right term.

    But I think that your optimism that a country that can’t supply its citizens with electricity can organize a motorcade of hundreds or thousands of armored cars, each chaperoned by about 10 officials and prevent fraud is somewhat misplaced. It is going to be a huge mess. Off the bat I can think of many ways to take advantage of this logistical nightmare even if it can be organized. And yes, the cars have to be armored because we are talking about Lebanon and if some party does not think the election is going its way, it can hijack or burn a few ballot carrying cars to make the election lose its legitimacy. Not to mention that many areas of Lebanon are not under the control of the state.

    You need to reduce the 55% number of people who are willing to sell their vote to about 5%. There are no shortcuts, the only answer is education and building democratic traditions however long it takes.

    Posted by AIG | June 13, 2012, 9:32 pm
  45. Ya Ghassan,

    We come full circle to Sean’s initial point. This balance sheet has a supply and a demand side.

    I don’t know what the solution to the case you are familiar with in the Metn. What are you proposing? How is this guy going to get his medicine. He needs it now. Not when the system reforms.

    If he doesn’t want to vote for FPM, but would like to vote for Geagea instead, maybe he can raise the issue to the Geagea representative. Maybe since Geagea is friends with Hariri, Hariri can get the Saudis to subsidize his medicine for him.

    That way, he gets his medicine and gets to vote for who he wants.

    What is the alternative? Bar all Saudi, and Iranian money? And American and European aid (just in case they come with strings attached)?

    And say, the only way we can get a proper system in place is if we have the ideal government, with proper good honest jobs, and people paying taxes, and these taxes subsidize this chap’s medicine?

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2012, 10:06 pm
  46. Danny,is
    I promise not to start a tit for tat on this but I have to respond to your previous post. I never said that I was either a fan of pork barrel spending or that I approved of it. The only point that is relevant for this discussion is whether pork barrel spending rises to the level of corruption as individual vote buying.My unqualified answer is no it does not. In one case you are spending your own money to buy temporarily the vote of a person while in the other you are allocating public funds to be spent to benefit various projects at the community level. In any case pork barrel spending even when wasteful and inefficient does not have a quid pro quo as the agreement between a voter and a candidate rep. Senator Byrd was one of the longest serving and most effective Senators in the US but was amaster at making sure that his state got its share of public funds. Was that the reason for his reelection or was it his courage to take tough stands and were these pork barrel projects as crass as vote buying ? This is an important issue because you cannot pretend to favour modernity and yet make light of vote buying. I will not revisit this topic soon :-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 13, 2012, 10:18 pm
  47. AIG: off the top of my head, ballot aggregation takes place in the UK but there are others. This was done in the 19th century in order to stop vengeful candidates from being beastly to those villages that had had the temerity to vote against them.

    In Lebanon, as in most countries, counting is done at polling station level. On the plus point, that means the count is fast and transparent. But these pluses are possibly outweighed by the odd practice of establishing polling stations along confessional and family lines, so that multi-confessional villages will have separate polling stations for, e.g., sunna or maronite, while in mono-confessional villages, specific families are grouped together in specific polling stations. Consequentially, it’s not just that we know how a village voted, it’s that we know exactly how the sunna or maronites of that village voted, or how one the different groups of families voted. While that level of data is a boon for psephologists, it also provides a simple indicator for a candidate to identify where their vote-buying has been successfully targeted.

    As those who vote here know, polling stations are almost always congregated into polling centres, often in a school. From what I understand, one proposal for aggregating ballots is simply to have the counting take place at that polling centre level, so that all the ballot boxes from the different polling stations at the same location are brought together straight after polling finishes and are counted together. The count will still be almost as fast, and certainly as transparent as what currently happens. But it’ll no longer be possible to disaggregate voting patterns by groups of families and, in most cases, by confession. Combined with uniform ballots, the measure will create a much more difficult environment for vote-buying to work.

    This discussion, I think, raises different questions to those on the issue of vote-buying and clientalism but which are no less important, namely the issue of communal intimidation. It may be unwise for some confessions/villages in Lebanon to be seen to vote against the prevailing hegemony in an electoral district, in case of possible repercussions or retaliation. To counter this, there are some who propose having district-wide aggregation of ballots and centralized counting along the British model. But while this would ensure that voting is ultra-anonymous at individual, family, confessional and village levels, it still has many risks, including those you’ve already identified about letting uncounted ballot boxes head off on long, lonely journeys. So does anyone have any simple and effective ideas about what can be done to prevent intimidation? ;-)

    Posted by electionguerrilla | June 13, 2012, 11:55 pm
  48. ELECTIONGUERRILLA,

    Aggregating the ballots in a polling center can’t hurt. I don’t think it will help much though because as I explained, the buyers can provide aggregate quotas to beat. The buying will just be more bonus based than upfront. Plus, there are quite a few villages and towns with clear confessional majorities. Marjayoun comes to mind. Ok, so you won’t be able to differentiate between the Greek Orthodox and the Greek Catholic. Does that help you much?

    Posted by AIG | June 14, 2012, 12:41 am
  49. Electionguerilla/AIG…
    “Communal intimidation” is a real problem. Homogeneity and traditional group think are the order of the day. I am neither a sociologist nor an anthropologist and so I settle for the simple explanation that in traditional societies rocking the boat is frowned upon. That is how traditions are maintained. New ideas and experimentation is not encouraged and the result is a stultified structure that is almost feudal.
    BTW, there is another problem in the present Lebanese electoral system It is next to impossible to do an actual recount since there is a widely spread practice of burning the ballots as soon as they sre counted.

    Posted by ghassan karam | June 14, 2012, 4:04 pm

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