Libya prepares to elect constitution drafters amid voter apathy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 2:54pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 2:54pm

Libyans are slated on Thursday to elect a panel to draft a new constitution aimed at bringing an end to a chaotic transition since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.

The polls have aroused none of the enthusiasm of the country’s first free elections in July 2012 following four decades of dictatorship.

The constitutional commission is to be made up of 60 members, with equal representation for the North African nation’s three regions.

But the Amazigh minority has said it will boycott the polls in protest at its alleged marginalisation in the process.

Six seats on the panel are reserved for women and the same number for minorities, but the two seats set aside for the Amazigh will not be contested because of their boycott.

A candidate and constitutional law professor, Abdelgader Gdoura, stressed that the panel must negotiate with the Amazigh to ensure their future participation. “Nobody must be excluded,” he said.

The charter is to cover key issues such as Libya’s system of government, the status of minorities and the role of Islamic sharia law.

But only 1.1 million people have registered to vote, compared with more than 2.7 million in 2012 polls for a General National Congress (GNC) or interim parliament, from an electoral roll of 3.4 million.

“Libyans are disappointed with the people they elected in 2012. Most of them don’t feel like going through the same experience,” said Fuad al-Kib, a 46-year-old civil servant who has not registered to vote.

Persistent security problems

Voter apathy coincides with persistent security problems and the lack of a clear political roadmap for the country’s future.

According to the High National Election Commission, 692 candidates, including 73 women, have registered for the contest in which political parties are barred and participants, aged over 25, must run as individuals.

The constitution drafted by the elected commission will be put to a referendum.

The 200-member GNC formed after Libya’s last election has stirred controversy by extending its original 18-month term until the end of this year because of political wrangling that has delayed the constitution.

It stands accused of having failed to head off political crises that have aggravated the anarchy and insecurity rife in post-Gaddafi Libya.

Yielding to popular pressure in the wake of street protests, the GNC on Sunday agreed to hold early polls to elect new transitional authorities rather than wait for the constitution to be finalised.

Discussions are still under way on institutions that might replace the GNC: a new congress, or a parliament and a president.

Ahead of Thursday’s polls, the interior ministry has said 25 security personnel will be deployed at each of 1,500 polling stations, which will remain open from 8am to 7pm local time.

The 2012 election was marked by violent incidents, especially in eastern Libya, bastion of Islamist militants who have staged almost daily attacks on the security forces.

Because of security concerns, the human rights group Carter Centre has scaled down an election assessment team to six members who will be restricted to Tripoli.