Shortfalls in the Libyan Elections Law 2012

Mohamed Eljarh

One of the key tasks in the democratic transition process in Libya is to build a civilian, constitutional and democratic nation. Article 4 in the Transitional Constitutional Announcement by the NTC states that, Libya should be built on the principle of political pluralism to ensure healthy and democratic circulation of the political powers in the country, and also the 2009 UN resolution regarding the transitional period, and the importance of democratic rule, respect for human rights and the rule of law, political dialogue and reconciliation throughout this period to ensure safe and proper foundations for the new Libya.
All of these pointers emphasise the importance of democratic transition for the Libyan society and the key to that is holding healthy and transparent elections, which will result in electing the Libyan National Assembly, and the key role of this National Assembly is to appoint the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), and that will mark a historical moment in the Libyan history as this will be the first Constitution Drafting Committee in Libya. The National Transitional Council’s resolution 180/2011 dated 20/11/2011, appointed a committee of eight members to prepare for the National Assembly elections in Libya, and this committee produced the Libyan Elections Law 2012, and it has been put in front of the public to debate its content. However, the law has some serious shortfalls in its articles.
One of the shortfalls is referring to a resolution that does not exist; the law refers to the Higher Commission for Elections (HCE) in Libya, but there has not been a resolution or an announcement yet for that Higher Commission for Elections in Libya and the NTC should have at least announced the HCE when they announced the Election Law. Also in Article 56 of the Elections Law, the role of the HCE isn’t clearly defined and does not state that it manages the whole election process independently.
Another shortfall in the Elections Law is the percentage specified for women in the elections, the law states that the share for women in the National Assembly is only 10%, when the population of women in Libya represents half of the society. The NTC and the Constitution Drafting Committee should realise that it would be very hard for them to justify this share for women in the National Assembly, and they should consider factors such as, the role of women in the February 17 revolution, and to the recommendations from the Beijing Women’s Conference, that recommended a 30% share for women in order for them to be effective partner in the running of the country, and here I would recommend the that women practice some influence and ask for at least 25% of the National Assembly seats to represent them.
Another important issue regarding the Election Law is the type of the electoral system employed. This is one of the most important factors that will determine the manner by which Libyans will choose their representatives, however the CDC held a forum in Tripoli and when asked about the type of electoral system, they announced that it will be a single non-transferable vote, but to the surprise of specialists the elections law adapts a single member plurality system (First Past the Post). It is not clear how much consideration and thought was given to devising the electoral system, and also there is obscurity on the idea behind adapting this system and not any of other types of electoral systems that could suit the Libyan situation.
These are only some of the obvious and not so much legal shortfalls in the Elections Law presented by the CDC. It is also worth mentioning that, when devising an electoral system for a country such as Libya, there are numerous factors that should be taken into account. These factors include but not limited to, the huge geographical area Libya covers and the small population, concentration of the population on the coastal areas, and the fact that Libya emerged from an armed revolution and international intervention. Also, the fact that there have not been concrete steps towards the national reconciliation process, the obvious tribal and regional nature in the Libyan society and the fact that there isn’t a formal map for administrative borders. These factors should be considered carefully when devising an electoral system to serve the interest of all Libyans.
It is also important to point out that there are ethnic monitories in Libya and the women population is just over 50% of the total population, and also the fact that youth population in Libya is around 67%. Furthermore, the widespread of weapons and militias in Libya, as well as, the lack of understanding of the electoral process among Libyans. All of these factors point out that the First Past the Post isn’t the most suitable electoral system to be employed at this stage, because it will enrich the rivalry culture and could even lead to armed confrontations between different candidates and their supporters. It is also worth point out that the FPP electoral system does not guarantee the required representation of the different sections of the society.
Finally, the CDC should look again and carefully at article 26 (which relates the type of electoral system) of the elections law, and consider carefully all the factors that dominate the Libyan political scene and ensure that their decision is based on proper evaluation of the situation in Libya to avoid any political and possible armed confrontations. Mohamed Eljarh is a UK based Libyan academic researcher and political, social development activist. He is also co-founder and Public Affairs Director of the Libyan Academy for Creativity and Innovation. He is from the city of Tobruk in Eastern Libya. [Email: ]