Elections in Libya
Ben Boubaker Youssef - 21/05/2012
A month before the elections of the National Congress scheduled for next June, the Libyan authorities are currently struggling to achieve this milestone in the political process that the country is going through. However, the resurgence of insecurity due to the circulation of weapons, poses a great threat to the conduct of these elections.
The resurgence here and armed confrontations there, sometimes involving rival militias, sometimes involving neighbouring regions or militias and security forces, make it clear that Libya is facing security problems that weigh upon the country’s political process.
The symbols of the State and its sovereignty are violated like the repeated attacks launched by the militias and former rebels against the Government’s siege in Tripoli. The latest one dates back to Tuesday the 18th of May and was held to call for bonuses to reward the militias who participated in the war that toppled Colonel Kadhafi’s regime.
These attacks have not spared the officials of the National Transitional Council currently governing the country. Despite the multiplicity of these common incidents, the Libyan authorities seem to be firmly committed to completing the country’s political process whose main steps have already been made.
Albeit in pain, after the formation of the interim Government with a large national consensus, the establishment of an electoral commission, the adoption of an electoral code and a law to organise political parties, the authorities are currently working on the last step before the elections of the Constituent Assembly scheduled for next June: namely, the preparation of electoral rolls.
This willingness of the Libyan authorities to carry through this political process despite the obstacles that stand in the way of achievement raises many questions among analysts about the ability of the current authorities to meet the challenge of the country’s democratisation.
The elections are a crucial issue for Libya’s future and the establishment of a democratic system. Nonetheless, they do not seem to generate much enthusiasm among the population. This is what the pace of voter registrations so far suggests. Only 1,250,000 voters of an electorate estimated at 3,400,00 have registered.
The estimates of the High Electoral Commission predict a registration rate of 55% of the electorate by the 15th of May, the voting registration deadline. Besides the low turnout of voters, there are the security risks looming over the conduct of these elections. Even the integrated security plan of the Libyan Ministry of the Interior in coordination with the competent authorities and with the support of the Ad Hoc working group operating in the framework of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya[i] and the Coordinating Committee of the countries supporting Libya intended to secure the electoral process of the National Congress, do not seem to provide all the necessary guarantees.
The election commission has decided to accredit local and international observers, media and civil society representatives to ensure a greater transparency of the elections.
The threat of the heavily armed militias in the different cities, some of which are not subject to the authority of the State, poses major risks on the country’s electoral process. Yet, the government has developed an ambitious program to integrate these armed groups in the ranks of the national army and police. This program offers the possibility to operate a social conversion to those who wish. They can follow training sessions abroad. They may also receive funding for an economic project they chose to implement.
The majority of these militias have surrendered their weapons and their members have joined the army or the police forces. Nonetheless, according to sources close to the transitional government, their total disarmament in practice is an arduous, long-term task, requiring a step-by-step process.
Thus, the authorities count on the outcome of the democratisation process that will confer legitimacy to the new authorities of the popular vote to help establish the authority of the State.
Ben Boubaker Youssef
Translated from French by Elizabeth Grech