Lebanese police attack electoral reform protesters
Published Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Lebanese security forces ambushed several people protesting for electoral reform outside parliament Wednesday, with at least two sustaining injuries that were treated at a nearby hospital.
Activists formed a human chain in downtown Beirut's Nejmeh square as parliamentarians convened to propose changes to an electoral law that has polarized politicians.
One participant had her toe broken during the attack, while another sustained a head injury after a police officer hit him with a rifle butt.
The protesters, who belong to a coalition of 70 NGOs named Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform, were calling for "a more developed and just" electoral law.
"The police acted in provocative ways against peaceful protesters," Yara Nasser of the Lebanese Association of Democratic Elections, an NGO that hosts CCERs meetings.
Protesters were dressed in navy blue shirts bearing the name and logo of CCER.
CCER has a list of demands including proportional representation, making voting venues friendly to people with disabilities, reducing the minimum voting age from 21 to 18, and implementing a quota on female parliamentarians of 30 percent.
Lebanon has always allocated parliamentary seats according to religious sect, making proportional representation, which awards candidates seats according to the number of votes received, a controversial proposal.
Under Lebanon's sectarian political system, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the parliament speaker a Shia Muslim.
Many activists complain that the sectarian system has left the country polarized and weakened state institutions, while empowering local sectarian factions and militias that have all but ruined the country's economy.
"These reforms need different mechanisms to be applied. For example...voting for 18-21 year olds needs a constitutional change, voting rights for people with disabilities only needs a decree, while women's quota needs a change to the elections law," explains Nadine Moawad, founder of the feminist collective Nasawiya, a member of CCER.
All photos of the attack on the protesters were erased after police chased those seen snapping pictures of the incident and forced them to delete the images. Some were even followed inside neighboring buildings, Nasser reported.