** I will be updating this post throughout the day with election coverage, so check back regularly (scrolling to the bottom) to keep abreast of the developments.
11:30 AM — I hit the road this morning bright and early at 7am, determined to beat the traffic down south to Saida. It took me a mere half hour to arrive at the election center in the little suburb of al-Hilaliyyeh, which is part of the larger district of al-Zahrany. A few Lebanese Forces volunteers in bright red and white t-shirts milled around sheepishly on the street, handing out ballots for their candidate, Robert al-Khoury. Closer to the entrance, members of Nabih Berri’s Amal party passed out ballots for the frontrunner’s list.
I was struck by how calm and orderly everything was. Soldiers and police manned the entrances and exits, checking every voter’s identification card before letting him or her in, one by one, to vote. When I entered the voting area, an official with the election supervisory board spent five minutes searching fruitlessly for “Qifa Nabki” on the voter registration lists before I remembered what my real name was (just kidding), and then he directed me to a voting booth. Inside the booth, the names of all the candidates were prominently displayed, and there were pencils and slips of paper available to create your own ballot, if you didn’t use one of the pre-printed ballots being handed out by party representatives outside the voting center.
That’s right, I created my own ballot. This election, for all of its innovations, is being conducted without official, pre-printed ballots. After writing out the names of my candidates, I folded the paper and slipped it into an official little envelope with the seal of the Ministry of the Interior on it. I then came out of the booth, dropped the envelope into the transparent ballot box, signed the voter registration list, dipped my left thumb into a pot of indelible purple ink, and that was that!
Leaving the election center, someone tried to slip me a “thank you” voucher for $20 worth of gasoline at the Sahyouneh gas station on the way out of Saida, but I politely declined the offer.
On the way back home, I drove into Achrafieh and around Hamra to get a sense for what the scene was like. More of the same: people making their way to voting centers in an orderly fashion; party representatives passing out ballots to people in cars at intersections; soldiers everywhere. I collected a few of these ballots as souvenirs. As you can see below, there isn’t a whole lot of room on each ballot to scratch out any names and replace them with others; this is, of course the point, such that voters are compelled to vote for an entire slate, “zayy/mitl ma hiyye” (just as it is).
1:00PM — Some people have been asking for information on the different electoral lists. Here is a very useful document that was sent to me by Richard Chambers, director of IFES, which shows all of the candidates running in the different districts, organized according to their affiliations. Note that it’s a few weeks old, so things may have changed in a couple of places.
Just to clear up some confusion — to which I was alerted by Helena Cobban’s too-kind endorsement of our coverage here at Chez QN: the system of creating your own ballots is not what is new in this election. It is actually a holdover from the old, woefully inadequate electoral law designed by Syria’s intelligence chief in Lebanon, Ghazi Kanaan (RIP), in 2000. What is new is all of the oversight and supervisory dimensions, the multitudes of international observers, the spending limits (which seem to have had little effect, alas), the registration deadlines, and the highly controlled environment at the polling stations.
2:40PM — There’s an interesting debate on al-Jazeera right now, hosted by Beirut bureau chief Ghassan Ben Jeddo. Abdo Saad, a prominent pollsters, has just finished saying that “we, in Lebanon, need a new social contract. We need to get rid of this parliamentary system and replace it with a presidential system.”
There is no real news besides turnout data (which looks good in some places, not so good in others). Traffic is smooth, but there are long waits outside many of the polling stations. Security incidents are minor and isolated. Minister Ziad Baroud has said that results might be announced by midnight tonight or by dawn tomorrow.
4:15PM — There have been several statements (mostly from opposition leaders) that the lines at many polling stations are simply too long and people are giving up and going home. Rumors are circulating that the 7PM deadline may be extended.
4:30PM — Minister of Interior Ziad Baroud is currently on television, giving a press conference. He is saying that the 2009 electoral law permits any voter standing in line within the perimeter of a voting center before 7PM is entitled to vote, even if she/he gets to the voting booth after 7PM. So this means that voting could continue well into the evening.
Baroud also said that in 2005, the total voter turnout was on the order of 45%. Today, as of 3PM, the turnout was already 40%, so we’re dealing with unprecedented numbers.
4:45PM — Those of you on Twitter, there’s a great deal of information being circulated between various Lebanese observers. I will add my own Twitter feed in the blog sidebar for breaking news.
7:00PM — Polls have officially closed. It seems that voters still in line will be allowed to reach the ballot box, but any latecomers will be turned away. Check my Twitter feed in the sidebar for more detailed updates.
8:20PM — Interior Minister Ziad Baroud just gave a press conference, in which he announced that the voter turnout this year was over 52%, which represents a 20% increase from the last election in 2005. Also, the ministry will be releasing the results of each district as it is counted; they’re not going to wait until tomorrow to announce them all. This means that I, for one, will be up all night.
8:45PM — Waiting for numbers. Early exit polling from Beirut 1 (Achrafieh) shows opposition up 49% to 47%.
9:40PM — A lot of the early exit polls coming in show a slight preference for the opposition in those crucial Christian districts where the FPM strategy depended on clean sweeps. For an interesting first-hand take on the polling stations from an election observer, check out this contribution in the comment section.
10:00PM — Some interesting results coming out of the FPM polling page: It looks like, with around 50% of the polling stations reporting, Gebran Bassil (Aoun’s son-in-law) is trailing both M14 candidates in the two-seat district of Batroun. Meanwhile, with 10% of polling stations reporting in Baabda and Beirut 1, the M14 candidates are also looking good. Of course, one has to bear in mind that the site also suggests that the FPM’s candidates in the Chouf are ahead of the Jumblatt juggernaut that will eventually crush them, once all the results are in, so I guess we just have to wait for some hard, representative numbers.
10:45PM — March 14 looks like it will pick up two extra seats in Saida and Batroun, and its polling looks good in Zahle and Beirut 1. We may indeed be heading towards a tie.
11:45PM — LBC is reporting what could amount to two major upsets in Zahle and Koura: 7-0 and 3-0, respectively, in favor of March 14. We will have to wait for final numbers, but if these results hold, then we could well be heading for a March 14 victory in these parliamentary elections.
12:15PM — LBC is more or less confirming a win for March 14. 61-38 with 29 seats still undetermined. I will have a graph up with the results soon enough.
12:30 PM — LBC is confirming roughly 68 seats for the majority. Here is my tentative breakdown of at least 64 of those seats. I will adjust it as the numbers come in.
I can’t believe how small these papers are, and I never heard of an election where you can write your own ballot. Wouldn’t that just make more void ballots when the writing is unclear?
Some other countries have much more “efficient” systems with just a yes or a no. :)))
Good luck and great coverage so far.
Dude, do you manicure your hands? 😛
Rime – Actually it’s just Yes and its pre-printed
IC: No, I don’t. Why, do you think I should pursue a career as a hand model?
Lol! The handwriting problem is a major issue indeed. As soon as this election is over, I’m thinking of doing a post about the perfect election law for the 2013 election, soliciting recommendations from the QN readership (who should all now be experts in electoral reform) on what we should impose.
A pre-printed ballot will be the first thing on the list. It will eliminate a significant amount of graft, as parties will not be able to influence voters as much (having no way of knowing whom they’re voting for behind the curtain). Of course, you can do what you like once you’re inside, but most are inclined to just use a party ballot.
Reading the first sentence I was encouraged to read on, and was not disappointed. I for one would be following this thread all the way, thanks QN.
I am intrigued though: Why would anyone pass on freebies after the vote?
One: I wonder, like QM, about the sens of freebies after the vote
And two: Why are election covering TV’s screens so full of men-only crowds inside voting bureaus? Is there a segregated voting on some places, or women just didn’t bother to go?
QN, delightful post and thank you for keeping us posted.
Is Arabic the only language accepted for ballots? I had assumed that ballots in French and English would also be accepted – and I can think of several friends for whom reading (let alone writing!) a full ballot’s worth of names would be a challenge.
Yes, the centers are segregated… women go in one door and men the other. Not sure exactly why this is the case. Maybe there was a concern that women wouldn’t vote in certain areas if they had to stand in line with a bunch of strange men?
Diamond: not sure if ballots in Roman script are accepted. I assume they would be.
Thank you for your effort.
By the way, what’s your take on this site, http://sharek961.org/
and are there other english/french language sites that update their coverage along the day?
sharek961 = fantastic idea. highly recommend it… though I haven’t had a chance to visit yet today.
Otherwise, check naharnet, nowlebanon, elnashra, tayyar, etc. (they all have their biases, so if you follow them all, you can balance them out a little).
I think you can also watch MTV (Murr Television) online for free.
QN, I thought I saw mixed waiting lines too…is the segregation of lines limited to some areas? I’ll be curious to know how that is decided, if that’s the case. On the other hand, the fact that no women-only lines were shown on TV confused me even more…I guess part of the reason is that there were maybe less shouting and wrangling with security forces on those feminine lines…
…Thanks, QN, for the list. I’m familiar with those. I fund that some of the incidents reported in those sites were posted on sharek961, while others were not. It does not seem to be ideological bias, so I’m a bit confused.
Sorry for abusing, but I have another question: will there be any reliable information about results -like immediate post-voting polls- from 7pm today untill the official results are released sometime tomorrow afternoon?
Good job on the coverage. Keep it up man.
Btw, do you have any idea why The National is pro-14 March?
And one more thing, khayyeih QN, are people allowed to write candidates’ names in English or French?
I know quite a few Lebanese people who cant write Arabic.
Thanks for the info QN. I’m looking forward to your post on the perfect electoral law… But there is one matter that one must be clear about. Elections are not only about the law, it’s about the way they are applied. And in this aspect, the Interior Ministry plays a central role.
And I have to say that I have been quite disappointed by the way Ziad Baroud managed these elections. He turned out to be another Elias Murr who in his time insisted on “modernising” the way his ministry conducted the operation, working with Europeans to improve some of its “technical” aspects. This surely is necessary, but to stop at that is rather disappointing.
I’ll give you two examples on the things he could have done:
First of all he could have abolished the communal and gender segregation that exists in most villages and cities in Lebanon. This segregation has no legal base. This is why you find it in Zahrani for instance, and not in my hometown in the Metn where people vote in the same ballot box independently of their gender and community.
You could search in the electoral law as much as you want, there’s no mention of such a segregation. It’s a simple “practice” that has been followed by the Interior Ministry, one which could easily be abolished because contrary to some of the basic principles upheld by our constitutional.
The second innovation could have been the printing of standard ballots by the Ministry of Interior in which candidates are classified alphabetically according to their communal belonging and people are invited to cross out the candidates they do not want. This move will have no legal base, but there is no text that bans it. Article 72 (that has not been properly implemented) only bans “the distribution of ballot papers […] at polling center entrances or any other place located in the direct vicinity of the center”. It doesn’t prevent the Ministry from providing standard ballots…. Sure, Ziyad had proposed a mandatory ballot that was refused by the Lebanese MPs because the combination of “custom made ballots” and segregated polling station is used to determine who voted for whom (LADE and the LCPS, I believe, have a study on how this is done… In this aspect, articles 87 and 95 are a great help for the Lebanese patrons).
Ziyad could have argued that the Ministry’s standard ballot form is a valid solution that guarantees the democratic application of article 87 (“When entering the station, the voter is supposed to
discretely hold a paper containing the names of candidates he/she wishes to elect or use one of the blank papers put on the table inside the booth”)…
Unfortunately, Baroud lacked courage and imagination.
Emile Hokayem is the politics editor for National and he definitely leans M14, but he is not rabid or annoying. His father, Nabil, is also running as an independent in Batroun.
p.s. The electoral law mention very little on what a valid ballot form is. No mention is made on the language that can be used or even on the way a name should be written (nothing is said about spelling mistakes or the use of the father’s name or not, a title…). I didn’t even find a thing on what type of paper is valid (dimension, colour…).
Article 112 mentions what is considered as a “spoilt ballot”
Article 96 provides for ballots that contains too many names.
All good points; I’ll try to respond a bit later, once the dust has settled.
when can we expect results, forcasts or exit poll numbers?
Not before midnight, I would guess. Maybe tomorrow.
Results ware not expcted to be out before midday tomorrow.
techinclly speaking, a person must use sophisticated measures to balance biases!
Is it one day vote or on stages like the last one.
looking at the election in Lebanon and how Lebanese living abroad not just visiting can still vote and have the same impact as the people who are living there every day , the interference of forign countries in the election which is apparently legal in Lebanon and the money that is spent to buy votes , all this makes it very clear that Lebanon does not know democracy as these things are not allowed in Israel , and any country in the West ,
For Lebanon to have a real democracy where all people feel equal they should cancel quotas, set aside have one vote for every Lebanese , have small districts so people will vote for people they know , have free movement and anti discrimination laws in housing and employment , make people register where they live not where they come from and vote where they live for somebody who lives in their districts , as long as the Shea in Lebanon do not feel that they have equal rights in employment and opportunity they will never abandon their weapons , how can we blame them , without their weapon Israel would have stayed in south Lebanon ,
The US and the West did nothing to force Israel out , the Palestinians and the Syrians should learn from that , Our rights and lands can be only taken by force as proven in the last forty years.
And that is my take on Lebanon and the US push for Mideast peace.
One day only, ya Ammo Norman.
How nice to hear you say that, I missed it,
QN, at 18, you are at the right age for modeling, definitely.
Alex and Ammo Norman are too old for that.
Asharq Alawsat’s two main opinion pieces yesterday were
1) Editor Tariq Alhomayed
Voting for Lebanon or Iran?
We will also find out today whether the Lebanese – who have been freed from Israeli, and later Syrian occupation, and who also experienced Hezbollah arms used against them during the Beirut coup [7 May 2008] – want a free and independent Lebanon, or whether they will vote to put themselves under the authority of the Wilayat Al Faqih. This second possibility will mean that Lebanon will no longer be the country that it once was; what Lebanon experienced following the Lebanese Civil war, and other wars, is far less [dangerous] than subordination to Iran, which will not only change the very fabric of the country, but also cut Lebanon off from the rest of the world.
2) Abdel Rahman Al-Rashed (director of Al-Arabyia Saudi TV station)
How will the Lebanese vote? To the Saudis or to the Iranians?
مثلما قال نواب سُنة ،مثل مصباح الأحدب، أنه يستبعد أن تمد السعودية العون لحكومة فيها حزب الله
As many Sunni PM’s said: It is unlikely that Saudi Arabia will continue to provide assistance to a (Lebanese) government that includes Hizbollah.
لمن يصوت لبنان: للسعوديين أم الإيرانيين؟
تبدو الانتخابات اللبنانية في منطقتنا أهم من انتخابات الولايات المتحدة من جراء الضجيج والمراهنات الكثيفة حولها، وهي في الواقع انتخابات مهمة، ليس لبنانيا، بل تمثل انتخابا إقليميا، حيث الصراع في لبنان على أشده. هل يكسبها المعسكر الإيراني السوري، أم المعسكر السعودي المصري الأميركي؟ هذا هو السؤال المهم الذي يجعلها انتخابات غير عادية، لأن الانتماءات فيها صريحة وواضحة. وسبق لزعيم حزب الله أن وعد اللبنانيين بأن إيران ستتولى مساعدتهم عسكريا واقتصاديا، مثلما قال نواب سُنة ،مثل مصباح الأحدب، أنه يستبعد أن تمد السعودية العون لحكومة فيها حزب الله وهو يوجه إليها كل هذه الإساءات. كما قال مساعد وزير الخارجية الأميركية، الأول من أمس، أن العلاقة مع حكومة للمعارضة نفس العلاقة كما هي اليوم. إذن نحن أمام انتخابات أبعد من كراسي البرلمان اللبناني.
ورغم الشكوك المنطقية في كل مفهوم الانتخاب، في بلد مثل لبنان شديد الانقسام السياسي والديني، وفي بلد المحاصصة هي النظام الرسمي، تجرى انتخابات لبنان في فترة صراع إقليمية مهمة. وما يجعلها مثيرة أن النتائج متقاربة جدا، فالصراع على بضعة كراسي برلمانية، لأن معظمها محسوم، ولا يعرف أحد حتى صباح الغد لمن الغلبة، مما يزيدها إثارة.
وبعد أن ينتخب الناس وتشكل الحكومة لن تكون السنوات القليلة المقبلة مريحة، بل قد تكون بنفس السوء الذي مرت به السنوات الأربع الماضية. خلالها ستقر أحكام محكمة قتلة الحريري. وخلالها سيطرح مشروع سلام للمنطقة، لبنان فيه طرف مباشر. وأهم من ذلك ستحسم مكانة إيران في المنطقة ومشروعها السياسي. وفي كل هذه القضايا الثلاث الصعبة سيكون لبنان مسرحا مهما، مضطربا أو مستقرا.
وأتصور أن سيئ الحظ من يربح الانتخابات، ويكلف بتشكيل الحكومة، ويصبح رئيسا للوزراء، ووزيرا في العهد الجديد، لأن الخيارات ستكون قاسية، وكل قرار يتخذ سيكون له ثمن صعب. مع أننا أيضا يجب أن نرصد المؤشرات الإيجابية التي تدلل على أن المتنازعين صاروا في الأخير أكثر حذرا وأقل اشتباكا.
ومن إيجابيات الانتخابات أنها كشفت كيف طور كل فريق خطابه السياسي بخلاف ما كنا نتوقعه. كنا نظن أن التيارات اللبنانية ستغرق في مواقفها الأصلية لكنها في الحقيقة لم تفعل.
فحزب الله جاهد من أجل تجنب الترويج لفكر مواجهة إسرائيل، لأنه يشعر أن الحرب لم تعد خيار اللبنانيين، بما فيهم أنصار الحزب. زالت في الانتخابات مزايدات كثيرة حيث كان حزب الله يقول قبل عامين إنه لن يتوقف إلا بعد تحرير القدس. وقد علق أحد منسوبيه عندما أحرج بسؤال عن مشروع المقاومة فقال صراحة إن هدفه ليس فلسطين بل لبنان فقط.
وكذلك تعمد الفريق الآخر الابتعاد عن تأزيم العلاقة السياسية مع خصومه، واختار، على غير عادته، أن يدافع في بعض المناسبات عن حزب الله، ويسكت على المخالفات الأمنية في حق أتباعه. وهذا لم يمنع بالطبع التراشق الضروري لوضع الناخب أمام حالتين، اتهام (8 آذار) بالإيرانية، واتهام (14 آذار) بالأميركية.
الانتخابات اللبنانية تحسمها بضعة مقاعد لأن المعسكرات استولت مسبقا على مناطقها ورسمت حدودها
nayla tueni doesn’t come across as very competent, i just realize.
awwwww…. the exit polls have both nayla tueni and nadim gemayel slightly behind until 4pm…
Ahh…Tariq Alhomayed! his article are like a fresh of breath air…coming straight from a cow’s backside.
QN, i agree that all the M14 people seem much more confident, and as you said before, judging from mere body language, they’re winning. nqula sehnaoui just represented the exact opposite of confidence-boasting nadim gemayel.
is it just that they’re more nervous because they feel they have more to deliver, as most polls were projecting an albeit narrow M8 victory?
anyway, at this point, i LOVE speculating, all very exciting. QN, you’re a junkie, of course you’ll be up all night. i’m afraid i’ll crash, i always do.
i’ve been observing in beirut 1 for LADE for most of the day, and with the exception of one of the polling stations in achrefiah everything was remarkably pacific. partisans from all sides were in good spirits and non-confrontationally operating alongside the opposition in the streets. i did see a remarkably more visible LF presence in beirut 1, though – i had expected to see more orange in the streets, and we’ll see how that affects the final numbers…
there was one polling station in achrefiah, though, that had a lot of drama. women yelling and pushing each other and chanting and cheering etc inside the polling station proper, and MPs going inside the polling station to rally the troops and intimidate the opposition… most of that died down by the afternoon, though, and each time i went back there later in the day it was more tranquil.
all in all, not bad! could have been a heck of a lot worse for sure =)
Thanks for the updates, QN. Great job, as always.
شكرا من امريكا للاخبار
Ya3tiq el3afye ya Elias. Thanks for the reports and updates.
May the chips fall where they may.
I’m in tariq al jadida and the shabeb are going nuts. Its almost like they thought M14 was going to lose beirut Three.
3atek el 3afya. shukran lelakhbar
Shuuu, no table with preliminary results yet? 😉
Still glad someone else is doing the work so that the rest of us can sleep in peace, knowing that whenever we wake up and go online, there’ll be an update.
wow its starting to look like a landslide.
فوز لائحتي “14 آذار ” في زحلة والبقاع الغربي كاملتين
رويترز: مصدر مقرب من حزب الله يؤكد خسارة المعارضة الانتخابات النيابية مشيراً الى تقبله النتائج.
“lbc”: رجال اسامة سعد يقدمون على تكسير السيارات في منطقة ساحة النجمة ومنطقة رجال الاربعين
23:11 وزير الداخلية : بعد نحو ساعتين ستظهر ملامح البرلمان المقبل.
“أخبار المستقبل”: عناصر من “حزب الله” و”حركة أمل” يهاجمون منزل النائب باسم السبع، ومعلومات عن اطلاق نار قرب منزل المرشح صلاح الحركة.
21:21 أفادت الوكالة الوطنية للإعلام أنه حصل اشكال كبير في منطقة عين الرمانة – الشياح، حيث سجل إطلاق نار في الهواء، وعلى الفور حضرت الى المكان قوة من الجيش وعملت على تفريق المشاغبين.
seriously. while i didn’t expect that aoun’s message would resonate as well as some seemed to think it would, i had no idea that this level of a mandate was in the offing. not that i’m complaining, really, but now let’s see whether m14 can be magnanimous in victory…
and whether m8 will be gracious in defeat…
if what LBC and Siniora is saying becomes confirmed and true soon and if M8 doesnt sabotage the whole process now……we can safely say…………………………………..Mabrook for M14 “victory dance”
as of 12:37 June 8
نائب ل 14 اذار
15 نائب ل 8 اذار
7 نواب مستقلين
Sami Jemayyel, Sarkis Sarkis, Majed Abi lama’, Emile Kenaan, Elie Karame all M14 candidates in Maten are confirmed winners by FPM Aoun’s media, Tayyar.org.
Only Agop Baqradonian from M8 won in this district according to same source.
With Zahle and Maten results in favor of M14, the outcome is very much decided by now.
3ateek el 3afay wa shukran, QN.
It’s late: 12:30 am.
No more updates, ya shabab… at least not tonight. Bokra, bright and early, we’ll start up again.
how could m14 lose…with all the money that poured into lebanon??…they could have rebuild the country from scratch…developed the best infrastructure..new schools new hospitals new libraries, specialy up north where poverty is so blasphemous…..
ma feeh fare2 eza mo3arada wala mowalate el mohem enno el wade3 yet7assan wa lebnan yeb2a mwa7ad