Lebanon: Can ‘mega centers’ debate push back parliamentary elections?
Lebanon–On Thursday, the Lebanese government has to make a decision on setting up of “mega centers” ahead of the parliamentary elections to assist people for ease in voting. The centers, which are receiving support of President Michel Aoun, will allow voters to cast their ballots even outside of their area of registration. This means the voters do not have to return to their hometowns for casting their ballots.
But the upcoming parliamentary elections that are scheduled for May 15 might get delayed if the setting up of these ‘mega centers’ is passed by government for these elections, experts say. A ministerial committee has already submitted an initial report on this issue and now the Cabinet has to take decision on further proceeding. If the government of Lebanon passes the idea, a draft law will be submitted to the Parliament for building up of these centers.
The Aoun camp which is in favor of mega centers said that “no legal measures were necessary to adopt the mega centers. It is very easy if the political intent is there.” On the other hand opposition said that “the issue requires legal amendments and will result in a very high financial cost.”
In the Ministerial Committee report that was submitted, Tourism Minister Walid Nassar said, “The cost of establishing eight mega centers … does not exceed $2 million and they can be completed in no more than three weeks.” But writing against the timeline prediction, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said that technical requirements for the set up would lead to heavy disruption. “The ministerial committee is against postponing the elections and insists on holding them on the designated date without any delay,” he said. “The disruption would be caused by the need for the centers to have the necessary principles and requirements in order to have a sound election,” he added.
Clearing out on the logistics around building up mega centers, Mawlawi said, “It is not a tent that can be set up in neighborhoods with a ballot box on top of a table. It is way more complicated. Mega centers without electronic connection, fiber optics and a central server that provides the necessary linkage are not actual mega centers, unless they want them to be like tents.”
According to political experts, the insistence of Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement to set up mega centers is aimed to “impose the extension of the current parliament’s mandate so that this same parliament elects the next president in the framework of a certain settlement.”