July 2, 2012, 8:50 a.m.
On July 7, the people of Libya are scheduled to vote in their first direct democratic general election in nearly 50 years. Libyans will vote for a 200-member General National Congress (GNC), a body that will replace the to-be dissolved National Transitional Council (NTC)’s as the interim government during Libya’s transition to democracy. The official campaign period began on June 18 and will last until July 5.
Libyans will go to the polls to vote for a 200-member General National Congress using a new electoral system. Forty members will be elected by plurality vote in single member constituencies, 80 members will be elected by plurality vote in multi-member constituencies, and 80 members by closed list proportional representation. Political party affiliation cannot be indicated on the ballot for the 120 individual candidates. The new GNC will act as the interim government and take on the difficult duty of building up Libya’s fledgling democracy after 42 years of oppression. Those elected to this 200 person body will appoint a 60 non-GNC member panel which will draft a new constitution for Libya. This “Committee of 60” will be made up of 20 members from the west of the country, 20 members from the east and 20 members from the south. This group of 60 must approve the constitution by a two thirds plus one majority. In turn, the constitution that is developed and approved by this panel will be put to the Libyan people in a nationwide referendum.
Since liberation has occurred, Libyans have been able to engage in the political sphere on many different levels. Currently, about 80 percent of eligible Libyans have registered to vote. Many who have registered to vote in these elections include Libyans living abroad in places such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Germany and Canada. Who Is Running? The final List completed by the High National Election Commission (HNEC) states that number of registered individual candidates allowed to run are 2,501. The number of political entities is 142 with 377 lists and a total of 1,206 candidates. Despite political parties being outlawed under the Gaddafi regime, parties are taking an active role in this election. Some parties taking an active role in the political process include Justice and Construction Party (حزب العدالة والتنمية Hizb al-Adala wa al-Bina), National Gathering for Freedom, Justice, and Development (-التجمع الوطني من أجل الحرية والعدالة والتنمية al-Tajammu’ al-Watani min ajl al-Hurriya wal ‘Adala wal Tanmiya), The Homeland Party (حزب الوطن , Hizb al-Watan), and the Center Nation Party (حزب الأمة الوسط , Hizb al-Ummah al-Wasat), The National Front Party (حزب الجبهة الوطنية, Hizb al-Jabha al-Wataniya), National Forces Alliance (تحالف القوى الوطنية, Tahaluf al-Quwah al-Wataniya), Union for the Homeland (الاتحاد من أجل الوطن, Al-Ittihad min Ajl al-Watan), and The Summit Party (حزب القمة, Hizb al-Qimmah). According to the rules established by the HNEC, all political party funding must be transparent, no political parties can be tied to militia groups, and political parties must not contradict Islamic law. Women in Politics With this surge in political life that is taking place in Libya, women are attempting to carve out their role in the process. According to data provided by the HNEC, women constitute 1,229,414 of the 2,728,240 registered voters. As for overall female candidates, in January, the NTC dropped the proposed 10 percent quota for women in its electoral law. Instead, political parties are required to alternate genders on the lists and half of all party lists must have a female at the top. As a result, most women appear to be running within the party list structure. Civil Society Organizations Since the beginning of the revolution and the subsequent fall of the former regime, many civil society organizations have sprung up throughout the country. Despite being only a little more a year old and primarily volunteer based, these civil society organizations are extremely enthusiastic and professional in nature. Nevertheless, these organizations lack funding and are suspicious of foreign investment from the West as it is perceived to threaten their sovereignty as seen in the crackdown on foreign NGOs in Egypt. Another issue is many of these civil society organizations are almost wholly focused on the upcoming elections without looking forward to the days after. In turn, this has left many questions regarding what Libyan civil society organizations and their leaders will look like in Libya after the elections. Generation Gap During this democratic transition period, a generational divide has occurred within Libya’s new political spectrum. Many Libyan youths played a major role during the revolution; however, after liberation was declared and the process of democratization began many young people have felt that they are being pushed out of the leadership structure by older generation Libyans. The argument for these actions by the older generation is that youth in Libya do not have enough experience or understanding to take the revolution to the next level. This answer has been met with firm resistance by Libya’s younger generation, who argue that due to Gaddafi’s heavy-handed rule no one has any experience with democracy in the country. As a result, young Libyans have been creating their own political parties and civil society organizations in order to ensure that their voices are heard during this time of change.
Libya’s first direct election in nearly 50 years has not been without its challenges. The original date of the election was postponed from June 19 to July 7 by the HNEC citing issues surrounding overall election preparation as reason for the delay. Furthermore, security and reconciliation issues have been recurring during this transition period. Nevertheless, many Libyans have faith that the political process will help them bring about a legitimate interim government that helps usher Libya into its next chapter.