Franklin Lamb: Lebanon's Crucial Special Elections
...Beirut's Second District campaign brings to mind Tammany Hall and Richard Daily Sr.'s Chicago. This weekend boxes filled with internationally donated food, clothing and household items (meant to aid last summer's war victims but instead stored in warehouses) are being dusted off and Future Movement (Hariri) labels hastily pasted over the names of the donor NGO's and governments. These gift parcels are being handed out only to voters who support the US backed Siniora government and who are known to be pro-Hariri voters. Opposition and pro-Hezbollah voters will receive none of the July War donated relief parcels, even though Beirut's Second District was not bombed by Israel.
Another Second District Pro-government electioneering technique, widely used in the 2005 election in Christian areas North of Beirut, and elsewhere, is the $100-600 per vote bribe. Several campaign workers explained to this observer how the system works. Any voter willing to sell his vote goes to the Future Movement (pro-Siniora/Feltman government) campaign Headquarters. The voter picks up an Official Interior Ministry Ballot Envelope.These are illegally made available to pro-Government Future Movement Campaign HQ. Under Lebanese law the envelopes are only to be issued to voters as they enter the polling station and pick up the blank ballot while observed by poll watchers. The corrupt Ministry employees make them available to Saad Hariri's organization a week before the election. The voter is given an envelope by Hariri staff which the vote seller secretes on his person. When the voter goes to vote the election official gives the voter a ballot and envelope. Once in the booth, the voter marks his ballot and puts it in the Hariri envelope and seals it. The voter hides the other envelope in a pocket etc. The voter exits the voting booth and inserts it in the ballot box slot
The voter then goes to Hariri HQ presents the other envelope proving he voted and is paid the bribe in cash. In District Two, where this practice will be most in play, there are 234 Vote Boxes used in 15-20 polling stations.....
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