BEIRUT — As votes continue to be counted Monday, the Supervisory Commission for Elections, in charge of monitoring the elections, has still not received funding from the Interior Ministry to carry out its mission this election cycle, said Judge Nadim Abdelmalak, the commission's head.
Speaking to L’Orient Today, Judge Abdelmalak, said that despite funding being transferred to the Interior Ministry to hold the elections, the Supervisory Commission for Elections did not receive any of those funds to conduct its mission. He said the body could receive the funds retroactively, but that he does not know the amount it could receive.
In the last election cycle in 2018, the commission was funded on April 18, with the elections occurring May 6, garnering criticism from the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections for the short time period between the body receiving money and the vote.
The Supervisory Commission for Elections is an 11-member body tasked with monitoring candidates’ compliance with campaign finance and advertising regulations, and accrediting observers and media workers. Its membership is composed of three judges, two lawyers, an accountant and other experts. According to its mandate, the commission receives reports of violations of the election law from NGOs like LADE and assesses each case.
Abdelmalak explained that punishment for violations ranges from a warning to action in the courts. In case a report of bribery is found to be credible, it is referred directly to the General Prosecutor’s Office. However the judge said that the commission “cannot take quick action, we don’t have police to go and implement our order. We have limited powers.” He said that the body requested an expanded mandate in 2018 and a budget independent of the Interior Ministry, but that nothing came of it.
With the vote complete, the commission is now tasked with accounting for how much money the candidates spent. However, this will also require funding, as the services of 18 accountants will be retained to crunch the numbers.
Additionally, the financial crisis has added new hurdles to this task. Abdelmalak noted that it was hard to trace the money spent this election season, as a lot of it was in cash. “The law says anything paid over LL1 million has to be paid in checks, but because of the crisis, no one is accepting checks and so they pay cash and that is hard to trace.”
A Feb. 4, 2022, statement by the United Nations Security Council called on the Lebanese government to empower “the Supervisory Commission for Elections to carry out its mandate, notably by providing it with adequate resources and initiating the process of nominating candidates.”