Lebanon News

University students make up bulk of local election observers

BEIRUT: Scores of Lebanese organizations will be monitoring Sunday's parliamentary election, alongside international monitors who have descended on Lebanon ahead of the vote. A majority of the Lebanese observers are students. The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) has over 2,500 observers, and over half of those are students from Lebanon. Likewise, the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA) also said that 80 percent their 79 observers are university students.

The monitors will be in and around voting stations on election day looking to track and report any violations or foul play in an effort to ensure a fair election. Observers have also been working before the elections, some since September, to monitor campaigning tactics and spending, in addition to voting procedure.

Both LADE and LTA said that the reason for such a high number of students being involved in their organizations was that the groups specifically targeted universities while recruiting observers. In LADE's case, the observing organization created a coalition with universities and NGOs to bring in observers.

LTA also recruited observers from universities across the country. "We recruited them through alumni of universities," said Gaelle Kibranian, program director of LTA.

"More than 80 percent are students, and then you have some businessmen and lawyers. But most of them are between 18 and 25," Kibranian said.

Students who will be working with LADE and LTA come from seven schools, including the Lebanese University, the University of Balamand, Notre Dame University-Louaize and the American University of Beirut.

"For them its something very exciting and something very credible,"said Nermine al-Horr, media officer for LADE. Horr said many of the students wanted to become observers in order to distance themselves from the political divisions in the country.

"They have a chance to participate in the political life of Lebanon, but yet not be part of the two mainstream political parties," said Horr.

Many of the students share a desire to change Lebanon's political scene without being directly involved in a party.

"I am quite interested in politics, although I don't abide by any political party," said Balsam Khodr a observer at LADE and 22-year-old business student at AUB.

Although Khodr said most of her friends were involved with a political party, she said she wanted "to help in restarting a new culture in Lebanon," one that he hopes will help to promote a better environment of democracy.

Both LTA and LADE are expected to issue reports of observed violations directly after Sunday's elections.





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