Beirut: Accusations fly as ballot counts still not complete

The Daily Star, Lebanon
May 4 2004

Accusations fly as ballot counts still not complete
Parties tout their own numbers

By Leila Hatoum
Special to The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Despite an announcement that the Interior Ministry would
declare the official election results by Monday afternoon, ballots were
still being counted as The Daily Star went to press, although the
sorting process was concluded.

The delay was attributed to the outdated manual counting system adopted
for municipal elections. National Liberal Party leader Dory Chamoun
commented sarcastically on the delays in issuing the official results
by saying, “maybe it is a difficult dish to cook.”

“Some said that ballot boxes were tampered with; others say that there
was a mistake in counting, and they had to start all over again,” said

A Lebanese Forces (LF) member close to Qornet Shehwan said that the
delay did not concern the party as they had calculated their own
unofficial results.

Lebanese Forces press spokeswoman Antoinette Geagea said the LF,
“without exaggeration, have scored well in the elections in many areas
such as Damour, Motelleh, Naameh, etc.”

Meanwhile, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) was not sure of the final
results, as the counting system they were using to count unofficial
votes broke down during the process.

“I still haven’t received any details regarding the results,” said
Elias Zoghbi, the FPM media representative, dismissing forgery as the
cause of the delay.

“It is slow for us because the machines broke down and for the
authorities, I guess because of the manual process they are still
following,” Zoghbi added.

In contrast, an FPM source who asked to remain anonymous said that the
results were against the opposition because of many factors – one of
which was the issue of the naturalized citizens who came from various
districts to cast their votes.

“Some got to vote more than once,” said the source, who explained that
FPM representatives had seen an Armenian voting in Zalka while using
falsified identification.