Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Transparency International

INEFFECTIVE ELECTION MONITORING IN LEBANON HIGHLIGHTS URGENT NEED FOR INDEPENDENT BODY

Issued by Transparency International Secretariat

In the wake of recent Parliamentary elections in Lebanon, Transparency International calls for an independent electoral supervisory commission and dramatic improvements in the election monitoring process to prevent cabinet ministers from abusing their power when running for Parliament. (Which effectively took place with minister of interior running in the election)

From the current administration, 16 out of 30 cabinet ministers ran for Parliament.

On Sunday, 6 May, 2018 voters in Lebanon took part in the first Parliamentary elections in nine years.

As part of the electoral process, a new Lebanese law permitted cabinet ministers to run for Parliament while still holding office, an unusual allowance that did not apply to other public officials, who were required to first resign their posts.

The new law set a considerably high spending ceiling for political candidates, allowing them to spend large amounts of funds on campaign activities.

Preliminary results show that 12 ministers won. The list includes the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, and the Minister of Interior and Municipalities, the latter of whom is directly involved in managing the electoral process. This would be a clear-cut conflict of interest, according to Transparency International.

“A level playing field is essential for fair and democratic elections. It is crucial to guarantee that official candidates do not abuse public resources for partisan purposes,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair of Transparency International.

“Electoral authorities shall be independent to assure the integrity of the whole electoral process, which includes the disclosure and accountability of political finances, campaign rules, information for voters, voting procedures, vote counting and proclamation of winners. Fair, equal and free elections are the basis of democratic legitimacy.”

During the recent elections, the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA), the national chapter of Transparency International, conducted field observations in key electoral districts to observe the electoral process. The organisation found a series of electoral law violations and examples of mismanagement, including those related to campaign advertisements and the use of public facilities and institutions in electoral activities.

In addition, LTA, which closely follows the performance of the Supervisory Commission for Elections (SCE), the country’s primary electoral supervisory body, also expressed concerns with the commission’s significant lack of independence from government influence and its limited resources.(The chief of this commission declared that the law didn’t provide it with any latitude for control, except in advertising)

“Throughout the elections, LTA has actively pushed for greater transparency from the SCE and the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities,” states Badri el Meouchi, chairman of LTA.  “However, the SCE is currently operating with such inefficiency and poor transparency that they’ve introduced an unfair advantage for candidates and hindered the ability for civil society to monitor the electoral process.”

Specifically, LTA discovered a lack of transparency in the way the SCE operates, particularly its failure to publish financial reports from candidates.

In some cases, guidance outlining what candidates could and couldn’t do was delayed or only clarified weeks after candidates launched their campaigns.

In addition, although the SCE is legally tasked with the role of improving voter education, in actuality, all efforts were executed by the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities only a few weeks before the elections.

As a result, a significant number of votes were ultimately rejected due to voter errors on pre-printed ballots.(About 40,000. There are claims that instead of a blank vote that would increase the cut-off line in favor of the traditional leaders, they preferred to express their displeasure with a cancelled vote)

Transparency International and LTA call on the government of Lebanon to significantly improve transparency around campaign financing and regulations, including communicating about relevant spending ceilings for each district, publishing financial reports and account information from candidates running for office and making the voting results from every polling station publicly available.

LTA calls on the government of Lebanon to prohibit incumbent government ministers from running for future Parliamentary elections.

For any press enquiries please contact

Jen Pollakusky/Michael Hornsby
E: press@transparency.org
T: +49 30 3438 20 666

Most Corrupt Countries? How evaluated?

Mind you that it was published in 2013. Compare with current evaluation, and check if the indicators changed in priority

Transparency International has published its 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their administrative and political institutions are perceived to be on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) and a 100 (very clean).

 posted last Dec. 3, 2013

The 18 Most Corrupt Countries In The World

Syria, in the midst of a brutal civil war, dropped eight points in the last year as government officials profit from the food crisis.

Libya, in the midst of post-revolutionary turmoil, dropped six points to surpass Iraq in official corruption.

Here’s the top 18:

Screen Shot 2013 12 03 at 6.20.05 AM

CPI

 


Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, and Sweden are list as the four least corrupt countries while the U.S. came in 19th.

Note: I wonder if there is any correlation between corruption and misery indexes in countries, and whether the political structure is the main culprit in these indexes.

 Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-most-corrupt-countries-in-the-world-2013-12#ixzz313189www

And here’s an interactive version of the map:

Reformist and former minister of Social Affairs: On Trial for reforming society?

It’s not every day that you get to see a Lebanese minister pleading his case in court.
But it probably should be everyday considering that Lebanon is among the world’s most corrupt countries, according to the 2012 report by Transparency International.
Posted Yesterday by  posted this Nov. 2, 2013 in The Beirut Report:

A minister on trial

The ranking is not surprising in a country where government bodies routinely fail to publish any records on how public money is spent or the fact that known militia leaders, murders, criminals and their business associates are running the government with zero accountability.

So what brought former labor minister Charbel Nahas to court this week?

Did he insulted the head of a major corporation (Spinneys supermarket chain) after it was accused of intimidating and attacking its own employees.

Nahas is barely visible in this rare photo leaning into the podium just right of attorney Nizar Saghieh. Court proceedings are not videotaped, photographed or recorded.

Nahhas is accused of defaming the British Michael Wright, CEO of the massive Spinneys supermarket chain by calling him a “terrorist“in a Facebook post, following reports that workers have been physically abused or fired for attempting to form a union to demand their rights.

The workers had accused Spinneys of failing to implement a government passed wage hike, denying social security benefits for hundreds of its employees and actually collecting daily fees of 5,000LL from its bag handlers for the opportunity to work for Spinneys.

The formation of the private union was considered a historic event in a country where labor rights are violated with impunity on a daily basis and the Spinneys workers received support from the International Labor Organization as well as Minister Nahas, who helped them create the union.

Activists are saying that the Spinneys worker’s union has largely been emptied owing to a vast intimidation campaign by Spinneys management.

Activists allege that Wright and his legal team have been sending threatening letters to anyone who likes, blogs or shares critical posts about Spinneys.

I have seen a couple of these emails and have also heard testimony from activists who work outside of Spinneys and say they have either lost jobs or been forced into silence after Spinneys lawyers reached out to their bosses and demanded that they cease any activities criticizing the supermarket or its treatment of workers. Much of that has been documented on the site “Spinneys CEO Against Freedoms” created by activists.

But all this did not stop dozens of supporters from attending Minister Nahas’s defamation trial on Wednesday and his defense by the prominent human right’s lawyer Nizar Saghieh. The large crowd of supporters seemed to annoy the Spinneys lawyer, who accused the minister of recruiting court attendees on Facebook.

The judge laughed and said: “Next time, why don’t you invite your supporters via Facebook?

Nahas addresses the media following the hearing.
Activists supporting Nahas gather outside the courthouse.

The audience had a laugh as well and the judge threw out the complaint noting that court attendance was free and open to the public. This last line was really interesting to me. I never knew court trials were open to the public. In fact, I’d never been to the main courthouse in Adlieh, which is quite a large and impressive building by Lebanese institution standards, though currently under renovation.

Even more interesting was the level of gender equality in the courts.

About half of the cloak-wearing attorneys I saw in the hallways were female as were two out of three judges sitting on the bench in the Nahas trial:

The only problem was that it was really hard to hear anything. The large vintage wooden-pane windows were all propped open and, with no speaker system, the voices of both litigants and judges were drowned out by the jackhammers at a nearby construction site.

But a microphone wasn’t the only type of electronics that were desperately lacking. There were no cameras and not even a sound recording of the proceedings. The only record was a handwritten one, penned by the woman in green sitting next to the judges.

Of course all this pales in comparison to the questionable nature in which cases are chosen to be heard. And why is it that we are prosecuting people for criticizing a company’s policies on Facebook instead of prosecuting the myriad of white collar crimes and kickbacks going on nationwide, not to mention the utter public sector corruption that produces a critical lack of basic services such as healthcare, electricity, water, traffic policing and internet access, just to name a few.

Part of the problem seems to be intimidation.

Few Lebanese believe in the courts or have the time to fight in them. But perhaps more of us need to start making time to attend trials at this great, seemingly gender progressive courthouse and launching complaints about the leadership that has failed us.

As for the Nahas trial, the next hearing is scheduled for the 11th of December. More updates to come.

Reconstruction of Beirut city center? Like Solidere? By whom again?

Solidere (Societe Libanaise de Reconstruction) is a chartered company in charge of reconstructing and managing the city center of Beirut. The concession was supposed to be valid for 25 years, and Fouad Seniora PM extended the permit for 75 years in November 2005. Seniora was the right hand of late Rafic hariri PM who was assassinated on Feb. 14, 2004.

This private company owns a third of the city center or (108,000 sq.metres). In Sept. 2010, a year after taking office, Saad Hariri PM (son of Rafik) took private possession of 30,000 sq.metres of downtown Beirut and paid for by Solidere.

Solidere was created in 1992 with the total backing of Saudi Arabia and the blessing of the financial neoliberal decision-makers in the US.

Through figure heads, Rafik Hariri gathered the majority of the shares.

Destroyed and badly damaged properties in the city center were expropriated under dubious circumstances and bought judges and ther controlled municipality of Beirut, and the owners of the properties were compensated by shares in the company.

The trick is that Rafik manipulated the stockprices and bought shares at ridiculous prices from panicked shareholders.

What Solidere does?

It sells and rents apartments and offices that guarantee huge profits. How?

1. Prime Lands were acquired virtually for free,

2. The cost of construction was minimal due to cheap Syrian work labor,

3. The investment in infrastructure was mostly done by public money,

4. Public money were poured in the Hariri contracting firms, and at inflated cost estimates

5. The side public institutions related to finance, reconstruction, and internal security… were attached directly to the Prime Minister (Rafik Hariri)

6. The former shopping centers and areas such as Hamra Street and Achrafieh were totally neglected for several years so that the city center attracks all the traders and banks andforeign multinational companies…

7. The network of urban highways and tunnels mainly served the city center to encourage companies to relocate to Solidere Real Estates

8. The airport was 15 minutes away and the seafront less than 5 minutes far, and the city center was located in the main axes to enter and leave Beirut…

9. The prime land of Ouzai district, an extension to Beirut’s seafront of luxury hotels, was inhabited by southern Moslem Shiaa, refuggees from the civil war, and they refused to vacate this district.

The planned Alissar luxury project was blocked temporarily.

Hariri undertook to have a highway run through Ouzai in order to have a legal leverage to pressure the people to leave, and he failed.

If Hariri had the best interest of the people in mind he would have built a flyover express highway as the one crossing the Armenian district of Burj Hammoud in East Beirut. And the highway to the south is detached in several places because of the rapacious personal  interests of the Hariri clan.

Building permits in this lucrative city center, if the projects do not get a go by the Hariri oligarchy, are routinely blocked by Beirut municipality, totally in control of the Hariri clan. And the Hariri clan can side step regulations on urban development to match their interests and the Saudi princes and Emirs of the Gulf…

For an entire decade (1992-2002), Lebanon was run by a triumvirate of Rafik Hariri PM, President Hrawi, and Chairman of parliament for life Nabih Brrri, with the total backing of Syria, saudi Arabia and the USA administrations.

The Lebanese chapter of Transparency International has abundant substanting documents on this matter. The chapter wrote:

As a result of this arrangement, late Hariri became the sole decision-maker on the reconstruction process of the city center, Nabih Berri (chairman of the parliament for life) was given the charge of the reconstruction and relief programs for south Lebanon. Walid Jumblatt, the Druze warlord was given the relocation of refugees Box, and president Hrawi was interested in the oil and gas sector…”

After the failed preemptive war of Israel in June 2006, the opposition coalition put the pressure on the Seniora government to desisit from its oligarchic policies. They set up tents in the city center for 16 months (Oct. 2006 to May 2008). a sit-in symbolizing the exclusion of the people’s re-appropriation of their city center

As a result, investors shifted their interests to Ashrafieh and Hamra Street. The Hariri clan was taken aback and lost vast amount in profits.

Solidere considered moving its wealth to Jordan, in the Al Akaba, Red Sea seafront, to invest in the vast luxury contracting project of the elder son of Rafik Hariri.

The neoliberal expatriate wealthy class forced on this pseudo-State over $70 bn in debt that Lebanon didn’t need so that they satisfy quick wealth to all the warlords and their clientelist political sectarian bases.

The irony is that this neoliberal system is stating that the first $30 bn generated from the potential gas and oil offshore extraction will go to servicing the debt.

They never learn from previous experiences of other States who opted to default and are now well grounded on their feet and prospering.

Note 1. In the Middle-East, the relatioship between political regimes and space is based on political patronage. A city is a place of power to control the space and influence the central government.

This reconstruction project is viewed by the elite classes (foreigns, expatriates, and local bank owners…)  as success story. It is viewed as a striking failure by the Lebanese in resolving unstable social and political class-divide.

Note 2: This urban planning of Beirut city center is inherited by the recent Arab Gulf Emirates Real Estates development programs (Dubai…) with the explicit purpose of attracting foreign investment… This project wanted the Lebanese to believe that “neoliberal globalization” will save Lebanon from its endemic insecurity from its regional enduring conflicts (Israel, jihhadist…)

Note 3: Article inspired from a chapter by Fabrice Balanche in the book “Lebanon After the Cedar Revolution


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