Stories from Afar & Up Close

Electoral Observations

The polling stations closed just minutes ago, and the results probably won’t be in for another day (can you imagine counting 2.5 million votes by hand?), but so far it has been an interesting day and I would like to share some of my observations with you: - Yesterday on TV a reporter was asking some people in Jdeideh (North of Beirut/Metn) who they were going to vote for. “I’m 71 and I’ve never voted in my life,” said one guy, “and I’m surely not going to start voting now!” Most others said they would vote for ‘the one who is best for the country.’ Nobody actually named a candidate. One man said “I don’t know, I have to ask my son who we’re voting for this time.”

elections-sassine2 Business is business: On Place Sassine, flags of competing Christian parties are sold by one vendor.

- Two days ago we were in Laqlouq, in the mountains North of Beirut, where we entered a restaurant full of army and police smoking arguileh and drinking araq. They were sent to the village to guard the electoral process, and were now looking for places to eat and sleep (all 30 of them) until Election Day.

- All voters in Lebanon have to dip their thumb in ink after they have voted, except the President of the Republic. He walked out with perfectly clean hands.

elections-posters-beirut Electoral posters of the opposition and independent in Beirut (third district).

- When you have to cast your vote at a polling station in a district that is very popular amongst the party you don’t like, you’d better bring your own ballot (or remember all the names in their correct spelling): my mother in law did not find a single distributer of the list she wanted to vote for in the entire neighborhood of her polling station, and we had to drive over to the office of one of her favorite parties to get the correct list. When we asked them why they weren’t distributing lists at her location, they said: "Are you kidding? Have you seen the COLOR of that neighborhood? No way can we distribute anything there!"

- When an entirely veiled woman (and I mean entirely, head to toe including the face and the hands) got to the voting station, the policeman at the door asked for her ID, checked the picture, looked at her veiled face and let her pass. I don’t know how he knew it was actually the person on the ID.

- Speaking of entirely veiled: would this woman be required to take off her gloves to dip her finger in ink?

elections-hariri-tariq-jdide An Electoral Bureau: a place for (in this case) Hariri supporters to gather.

- While we were waiting outside the polling station, a group of 4 ‘observers’ of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections walked up. Two of them, Lebanese girls, went inside the station, while the other two, foreigners, waited outside. A member of the most prevalent political party walked up to the policeman guarding the entrance with bags of waterbottles that he wanted to distribute inside. The policeman stopped him, but the man argued a bit, then took him aside, handed him some papers (we couldn’t see what they were) and was let in the station with his water. The observers looked on, but obviously did not speak Arabic, so they had no idea what happened. I wonder what the report will say. Something happened. It looked fishy, maybe?

elections-supporters-mustaqbal Supporters of Hariri expressing their excitement across the neighborhood.