BRIDGE in Beirut: Two Electoral Systems Workshops and Seven New Facilitators

20 October 2011

IFES organized a pair of BRIDGE workshops on the poignant topic of electoral systems in Lebanon. The workshops were technical in nature, focusing on the main electoral systems, seat allocation formulas, quotas, and reserved seats, as well as the electoral systems in Lebanon and current proposals for reform. The events also served as field training for some of Lebanon’s BRIDGE facilitators, seven of whom were accredited at the completion of the second workshop. The first workshop included members of Lebanese Civil Society while the second included staff of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities.

IFES has been working in Lebanon since 2005 to support the process of electoral reform and to improve the conduct of elections. Currently, IFES provides technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities and civil society so they can effectively plan and manage electoral activities ahead of the 2013 parliamentary elections. Funding for IFES project ‘Support to the Electoral Process in Lebanon’ is provided by USAID.

There are widespread calls for electoral reform in Lebanon. One of the areas where politicians and civil society alike are actively campaigning for significant electoral reforms is the adoption of proportional representation.

The main purpose of the Electoral Systems workshops was to discuss issues related to various electoral system options and their impact on potential electoral reform in Lebanon ahead of the 2013 parliamentary elections.. The workshops aimed to establish comparative knowledge on the world of electoral systems, and improve understanding of the current and proposed systems. Beyond that, the workshops encouraged evaluation of the options and impacts of the each of the systems. Finally, the systems were compared to evaluate the impacts of their implementation.

First workshop was held for 21 civil society activists affiliated to the Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform during 5-7 October, 2011 and the second workshop was held for 11 electoral officials (the staff of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities) during 10-14 October, 2011 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in Beirut, Lebanon.

The workshops were facilitated by lead facilitators Natia Kashakashvili, Skye Christensen and Said Sanadiki along with the semi-accredited facilitators: Haissam Minkara, Marie-Louise Ramy, Mirna Shidrawi, Nada Ghaziri, Ahmad Rawass, Sharbel Khoury and Samih Ayoub. All semi-accredited facilitators proved themselves in preparation and delivery of the workshops and achieved full (workshop-grade) accreditation. IFES warmly welcomes these new facilitators into the global BRIDGE community.

The workshops Agenda was tailored so the participants could become aware of all the electoral system families using the simulations (mock polling and mock counting) for each system; understand the Elements (district magnitude, ballot structure and electoral formula) of Electoral System for specific systems; figure out advantages and disadvantages of each electoral system in depth and each families in broad-spectrum; analyze the electoral system design principles and quotas for the underrepresented groups. At the end of the workshop, Richard Chambers, IFES/Lebanon Chief of Party, as the Expert guest speaker, presented the UK Electoral Systems in use and discussed the current electoral system reform initiatives in Lebanon; participants were then asked to work in the groups on the ballot paper structures based on the current and the proposed electoral  systems.

Verbal and written evaluations proved the high interest towards the presented topics. CSOs representatives expressed the need of Voter/Civic Education module as well as getting to know the Facilitation techniques through the TtF. MoIM participants stressed on the need of the continuous series of BRIDGE workshops to cover other aspects of the elections. 

Based on the dynamics of the workshop it is recommended to hold further workshops to broaden the knowledge on elections, particularly on legal framework, election management design, codes of conduct of the electoral stakeholders and civic education module for the CSOs. We recommend a mixture of civil society and governmental representatives so that networking and knowledge sharing leads to a better communication and working relationship of the stakeholders for the upcoming elections.

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