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More steps needed for women’s participation: EU
May 9, 2018
Author: Finbar Anderson
Source: The Daily Star

The EU Election Observation Mission emphasized the need for further measures to support women’s inclusion in Lebanese politics and greater supervision of the media and campaign finances, in its preliminary statement released Tuesday. “It’s clear that more needs to be done to facilitate the participation of women in politics in this country,” chief observer of the mission Elena Valenciano said.

“Despite the big increase in female candidates in 2018 and the small increase in female MPs, there is room for further representation.”

Joelle Abou Farhat, co-founder of NGO Women In Front, said that “without a quota, women will not be able to reach the Parliament or any other political decision-making position,” she told The Daily Star.

“As long as it’s optional, no one will give it a try or jeopardize any of their seats,” she said.

Both Valenciano and Abou Farhat said the 86 registered female candidates for this campaign showed women’s desire to join political life.

“If you look at the results, you see that 122 men are representing 50 percent of our society, and on the other hand, six women representing the other 50 percent, which is not correct – it’s not fair,” Abou Farhat said.

The EU statement also drew attention to the lack of oversight of media coverage and campaign spending.

“Lebanon has a pluralist regime and the impartiality of media outlets has been – to a certain extent – respected. However, their political affiliations allowed unequal access to candidates,” Valenciano said.

This particularly disadvantaged first-time candidates, she added.

Ayman Mhanna, director of the SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, said this was partly due to the “very vague” wording of the electoral law, coupled with difficulties with enforcement.

He said that while the law stipulated that a certain amount of media coverage had to be “free and equal,” this was poorly defined, leaving outlets within their rights to dedicate “99 percent of their coverage to publicity or advertising. ... There’s definitely a need to review this by saying that a certain minimum quota has to be equal and open for all.”

Mhanna advocated “a fully independent electoral commission” to adjudicate media conduct.

Such a commission was also recommended by the EU mission, which noted that Lebanon’s Electoral Supervisory Committee suffers from a “lack of financial independence and absence of powers to investigate, adjudicate or sanction breaches.”