Libya’s first post-Gaddafi PM raises serious concerns about elections
Reuters, Tuesday 14 Feb 2012
Mahmoud Jibril says that low electoral awareness along with a security vacuum could jeopardise hopes for an inclusive new constitution

Libyans could shy away from the country's first free elections later this year if more is not done to educate them about the vote, wartime rebel Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said.

Four months after he stepped down from his post, Jibril said it was premature to talk about his own political ambitions and that for now he was travelling around the North African country to raise awareness ahead of the June election for a national assembly, which will have the task of drawing up a constitution.

"An awareness process is very much needed so when a Libyan person goes to the ballot, he can make a free conscious decision of what he wants," he told Reuters in an interview.

"But right now we are going to have one of two possibilities - either people will shy away from voting on election day simply because they don't know what is required of them or they will be ready to sell their vote to whoever has the money," he said.

"Both scenarios are very scary scenarios."

Libya last week published its final draft of the country's election law, which will reserve two fifths of the seats for political parties, groups that were banned under deposed leader Muammar Gadhafi's 42-year autocratic rule.

Dozens of new parties have sprung up offering a vibrant mix of democratic, Islamist, free market and nationalist agendas and providing an alternative to established political movements like the Muslim Brotherhood.

But the electoral picture has been clouded by widespread insecurity in the North African country, with the interim government appointed in November struggling to impose its authority on a myriad of armed groups.

An electoral committee charged with supervising the polls was sworn in at the weekend. But Jibril said not enough was being done to raise awareness about the electoral process itself in the oil-exporting country.

"TV is not doing it, I don't see personal visits by the NTC to different Libyan cities and engaging in campaigns and explaining what elections are all about," Jibril said, referring to the ruling National Transitional Council. "I haven't seen anybody doing that ... People need the face-to-face discussions, they want to feel they are part of this country."

The US-trained planning consultant, who abandoned a post in the Gadhafi administration and became the face of the Libyan revolt as he travelled the world drumming up support, said he was joining a national Libyan alliance of non-governmental organisations and political parties as well as other groups.

"It contains parties, NGOs, civil society organisations, independent Libyan personalities from all over the country," he said. "The aim of this national alliance is to talk about the future, development, that there is no exclusion for any Libyan."

Jibril, who said he had visited 30 Libyan cities so far, said the alliance would be announced next week.

"The country now needs unity because what's at stake in June is a constitution that does not exclude anybody and this is an interest for all political groups. Nobody has an interest to be excluded, whether he is an Islamist, secular, liberal, Marxist, nationalist... nobody wants to be excluded."

The former prime minister said security was a key condition for the polls to be held and that cities still awash with weapons from the war needed to be emptied of them. He has previously sounded an alarm about a "power vacuum" where foreign powers may exploit rival militias on the streets.

"We are in a situation where we don't have a state, we don't have a national army, we don't have a police department, we don't have a national security apparatus. That means those who are in the street are having the upper hand," he said.

"My own interpretation of the situation was that we need an effort to unite people, and this is what I'm trying to do."