Promoting the participation of young people in local government, Lebanon’s Jabal El-Sheikh municipality establishes youth council.
The Union of Municipalities of Jabal El-Sheikh (JES), in the Rashaya district of Lebanon’s Beqaa valley, announced their new Youth Council on 17 August 2019, after 120 young citizens turned out to vote.
JES organised the elections after drafting an electoral law that gives local youth between the ages of 15 and 21 the right to elect a three-year youth council.
This activity was part of Democracy Reporting International’s (DRI) efforts to raise citizen’s awareness of the role of local governments in Lebanon, as well as improving young people’s understanding of electoral procedures and how to exercise their political rights.
Figure 1: Candidates and activists of the Sawa Mnikdar Youth List in the Jabal El-Sheikh Union of Municipalities, Rashaya, 17 August 2019.
JES’s electoral law adopted a list proportional representation system; using electronic voting to reduce the risk of invalid ballots. Each voter had to choose one female and one male candidate from their favoured list, ensuring that fifty per cent of elected council members were women.
Two electoral lists competed for 14 places in the youth council. The candidates of “Sawa Mnikdar” (Together We Can) gained 9 seats, while the “Abel Ma Nfel” (Before We Leave) secured 5 seats.
The youth council will regularly attend the council’s meetings, and will receive a budget for local activities and projects. Union President, Saleh Abou Mansour, committed to discussing every project endorsed by the youth council with the union council.
Figure 2: Candidates, activists, observers and organisers of Jabal El-Sheikh Union of Municipalities’ Youth Council, Rashaya, 17 August 2019.
Before election day, DRI held a series of trainings with the youth candidates and voters on themes such as the electoral and municipal laws, campaigning methods and leadership skills. Candidates were also supported in presenting their mandate and debating with voters and local NGOs.
“We need to change society’s perception of youth” said Léa Richani, a candidate from the “Sawa Mnikdar” list. She shared how a council will provide a common ground between the elected youth and federal council and allow young people to input on how funding should be used to support local development in the area.
Figure 3: Candidates and activists waiting for voters at the polling centre, Rashaya, 17 August 2019.
Voter Bouchra Said voiced support for “Abel Ma Nfel”, as it canvassed for development projects in their communities to stop rural youth leaving. “This is a window of opportunity to strengthen our role in activating the federation council work. No matter who will win, because what is important is to join hands and work towards developing Rashaya,” she added.
She remarked on how the turnout shows how young people want to participate in the democratic process, and how a youth council offers them an opportunity to effectively oversee the Union’s work and hold them accountable.
Figure 4: Candidates and activists of the Abel Ma Nfel Youth List in the Jabal El-Sheikh Union of Municipalities, Rashaya, 17 August 2019.
Figure 5: Delegates and observers jointly counting ballots after the election was completed, Rashaya, 17 August 2019.
You can watch the election unfold in this video.
This event was part of DRI’s campaign to bring citizens and government together and build awareness of the practical impact decentralisation can have on local development across Lebanon. The campaign is part of the project “Setting an Agenda for Decentralisation in Lebanon – Phase II”, funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.