A new round of Libyan negotiations on the presidential and parliamentary electoral law which began in Rome on Monday is scheduled to conclude on Thursday. The negotiations started with the participation of a committee made up of the House of Representatives and the Chairman of the High National Elections Commission (HNEC) Emad Al-Sayeh, in the presence of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
The meetings are intended to bring views closer together on legislation that awaits the development of a constitutional foundation – the fate of which remains unknown – for the general elections slated for 24 December. The bill was drafted by the HNEC, with the participation of the UNSMIL. It divides Libya into three electoral districts in the east, west and south, using a hybrid of the individual- and party-based electoral systems.
According to the bill, the House of Representatives members will increase to 234, up from the current 200-member house, with 82, 117 and 35 members for the east, west and south districts, respectively. The bill identifies 32 electoral districts, up from 13 in the last general election conducted in June 2014.
The draft on the new House of Representatives elections prompted oppositional reactions primarily because it was prepared by the HNEC, the division of electoral districts, and the demographic representation in the new House.
House members decried the bill, saying it does not achieve equality or justice and does not serve the principles of the rule of law and citizenship countrywide.
In western Libya, a member of the House of Representatives from Tarhuna city, Abu Bakr Said, criticised the draft because it “doesn’t state the conditions on which it based the distribution of seats in the upcoming house for a total of 234 members.”
He added that the distribution of seats is “unjust and uneven, and doesn’t take into consideration the population density and ignores equality between regions.” Said noted that the people of Tarhuna reject the “unfair” seat distribution in the form mentioned in the bill and demand that the HNEC should clarify the details on which the draft is based.
In the east, parliamentary member Abdel-Motaleb Thabet objected to a distribution of seats that doesn’t take into account the population density in the Jabal Al-Akhdar district. He said if it turns into law, the bill will stand in the way of holding the general elections on schedule.
To the south, many observers stressed that national reconciliation should be achieved before delving into the details of the electoral law and identifying the electoral districts. They pointed out that without national reconciliation the elections will not be held and the Libyans will not have access to their long-awaited rights.
In response to such criticisms, Al-Sayeh said on Clubhouse on Thursday night that the proposal for the distribution of seats and districts was based on the request of the speaker of the House of Representatives. He explained that the distribution was determined on the basis of population density and geographical distribution. In preparing the proposal, the commission relied “on the figures of the Civil Registry Authority for 2020, which showed that the population of Libya stands at 6.9 million.” He pointed out that the leaked copy of the proposed law “was manipulated and forged and contained incorrect information.”
On Sunday night a nine-member committee from the Libyan House of Representatives arrived in Rome to meet with Al-Sayeh and a delegation from the UNSMIL. The Spokesman of the House Abdallah Belihaq said the four-day meetings will discuss the steps necessary to organise the presidential and parliamentary elections to be submitted to the House for approval.
The UNSMIL said on Monday “at the invitation of Libya’s House of Representatives and in line with its mandate to facilitate the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections on 24 December 2021 and provide electoral assistance as set out in Security Council Resolution 2570 (2021) and the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum Roadmap, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya accepted the invitation to provide support to the work of the House of Representatives Committee.”
The mission added that “the role of UNSMIL during this meeting will be to provide technical support and advice to the House of Representatives Committee and the HNEC in developing draft electoral laws, based on UN principles of electoral assistance and human rights principles.
“UNSMIL stresses the importance of an inclusive electoral process and of including the High Council of State in the preparation of the electoral laws, including during the meeting in Rome, in line with relevant provisions of the Libyan Political Agreement and the Tunis Roadmap regarding the preparation of electoral legislation. UNSMIL urges the House of Representatives and the High Council of State to act in good will towards these objectives and to coordinate in line with the relevant provisions of the Libyan Political Agreement.”
Khaled Al-Mashri, president of the High Council of State, didn’t take part in the Rome meetings, but the head of the UNSMIL spoke to him about the need to agree with the House of Representatives on the laws governing the elections and continued communication between the council and house on all relevant cases, the media office of the High Council of State reported.
On Sunday Libyan Prime Minister Abdel-Hamid Dbeibah convened the fifth ordinary assembly of the year in Sabha city in the south. The meeting saw a number of ministers requesting emergency measures to counter the deteriorating situation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, security imbalance and the delay in approving the state budget in the House of Representatives.
During the meeting the cabinet approved the allocation of 500 million dinars to the Ministry of Health to support the medical facilities with the needed equipment and medicine to treat coronavirus patients. It also imposed a curfew from 6pm to 6am in cities where the pandemic situation is deteriorating, allocating 500 million dinars to the Ministry of Interior to back security directorates in the south.
The cabinet meeting was held in tandem with the visit of a high-level military delegation headed by the Chief of Staff of the General Command of the National Army, Lieutenant-General Abdel-Razek Al-Nadori, to the city of Sabha as part of a military tour in the southern regions to follow up on the security operation announced by General Command weeks ago to pursue terrorist elements and African mercenaries in the southwestern regions of the country.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 29 July, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.