Tag Archives: 2013 Lebanese General Election

Election Musings – US and Lebanon

Yeah, I’m not going to get on a soapbox about which candidate to vote for in the US general election.  If you don’t know who you’re voting for by now, nothing I can say will change your mind.  Just vote from an informed position, please.

We’ve heard a lot this election cycle about voter fraud and seen a lot of fingerpointing on both sides from individuals who say the other side is trying to rig the vote or keep individuals from voting.  Within my own state, there is an investigation into the actions of Colin Small, accused of throwing away voter registrations in Harrisonburg, VA.  I am not going to speak to this much, only to point out that anyone from any party who attempts to sway the vote should be ashamed of themselves.

Despite the problems we may or may not be having in the US, other countries face even more problematic election challenges.  While on my study visit this summer, one of the major problems being discussed in Lebanon was election reform.  We spoke with many associated with the political system, including many members of youth movements, and nearly everyone agreed that election reform is vital for Lebanon’s continued status as a republic in the Middle East.  Currently, there is no official ballot system in Lebanon.  If you can write down who you wish to vote for on a sticky note and get it to a polling place, you can vote.  Sounds relatively egalitarian, right?  Vote for who you want and ignore who you could care less about.

Except it’s not that simple.  Political parties within Lebanon make a habit of printing their own ballots, conveniently including and excluding individuals running for certain offices.  They pass these ballots out to key people within communities, telling them to circulate the ballots to their friends and neighbors.

The entire system is rigged so they know how many ballots go out and how many come in.  If they do not all return on election day, party members return to these voter’s homes demanding to know why they did not follow through with their “requests.”  If they do all return, you are rewarded.  Forget secrecy.  If you vote for the “wrong” candidate on these ballots, it’s easily traced back to you or your neighborhood.  Forget “free elections” when coercion is part of the system.

Is the US system flawed?  Probably.  I haven’t done enough research to really know.  Here’s some interesting info from PolitiFact.  Yes, I was born into a privileged station where my right to vote has never been questioned (citizenship for generations on all sides of the family), and I am grateful for the position I earned from zygote status.  But what I do know is that I am incredibly lucky to live in a place where my vote is between me and that little lever machine (and G-d, I suppose).

Reformers in Lebanon are asking simply for a ballot system that is free, fair, and systematic.  It doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me.  I doubt the legislation will pass in time for the 2013 general election, but I do hope that it can happen soon.