Albright group lauds Lebanese election

May 15, 2009 at 4:54 PM

WASHINGTON, May 15 (UPI) -- Lebanon has improved its electoral system substantially as it prepares for June parliamentary elections, though security issues remain, observers said.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright led a delegation from the National Democratic Institute to Lebanon to survey the election system ahead of June parliamentary elections.

A review by NDI commended Lebanese electoral reforms, saying they represent a "significant step" toward development of an autonomous, independent and sovereign state.

Beirut passed a series of electoral reforms in 2008, including campaign and media regulations, as well as measures to conduct voting on a single day. Lawmakers passed a measure in March to lower the voting age to 18, but that measure will not be in force for the June vote.

The NDI delegation saw advancements in most measures of electoral reform, paying special note to the impartiality exhibited by the Interior Ministry, which is tasked with overseeing the elections.

The June 7 elections will mark the first time the interior minister will accredit international observers, and NDI noted the 2008 electoral law permits domestic observation as well.

Meanwhile, the group expressed concern over security during the election. Without adding specifics, it noted that while the Lebanese army was charged with security during the elections, one party, presumably Hezbollah, operates a militia not under Beirut's control.

The political system in Lebanon is such that results are relatively predetermined; the pro-Western March 14 slate is expected to lose out to the March 8 coalition, which includes Hezbollah.

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