Libya: Draft Electoral Law Criticized

This post is part of our special coverage Libya Uprising 2011.

A few days ago, the Libyan government released a draft of the election law for public debate. The aim was for citizens to discuss it and find out the opinion of the majority of Libyans about it. This draft, the first in Libya's post-Gaddafi era, is the first of its kind in a country that had no elections in four decades.

The elections are slated for June this year and the new parliament will be charged with writing the country's new constitution.

Soon after its release, activists began criticizing some of the draft's key clauses through the Internet and civic organizations. Most of their criticism focused on an article which does not permit Libyans with dual citizenship to run for elections. The other point debated is about the availability of only 10 per cent of the congress seats for women.

Libyan activists have also translated the Electoral Law draft into English for wider deployment in the Western media and have published the translation of the draft on the Internet.

Libyan blogger Ghazi Gheblawi shares a link on Twitter:

@Gheblawi: English Translation of #Libya Electoral Law via @libyanproud @WaterproofAhmed @ChangeInLibya

In addition to the translated English version, the ruling Libyan Transitional Council published the original version in Arabic, adding an e-mail address in case Libyan citizens would want to comment on any of the articles of the electoral law.

Gheblawi shares the link for the Arabic version of the draft law:

@Gheblawi: Draft electoral law for the election of the national Libyan congress PDF ARABIC #Libya #election read and spread

After reviewing the draft, many activists rejected the article which prohibits Libyans with dual nationality to run for election. One of activists on Twitter has written a letter under the signature of ‘The Libyan Dual Nationality Community’. He has published a copy of the letter that he sent to the Election Law Drafting Committee.

Armchair Arab tweets:

@ArmchairArab: @Tripolitan @LibyaLiberty @@AzizBelhaj @Abukersh @ceoDanya here’s my English Draft letter –

He explains in the letter the conditions experienced by Libyans under Gaddafi's repressive regime, the reason that pushed them to migrate out of the country, seeking other nationalities:

However I put it to you dear distinguished members, that thousands of Libyans were forced to flee their homeland and start new lives overseas by the brutal practices of the former Libyan government of Gaddafi and his cronies. Amongst these Libyans the flame of revolution and opposition to Gaddafi was kept alight, so that it might one day help spark the changes that all Libyans longed for. In the patriotic and honorable revolution of February 17th, 2011. This spark grew to a burning flame that played a critical role in ousting the Gaddafi regime. Dual nationality Libyans residing abroad helped take the news of Gaddafi's crimes to a global audience, pressuring international media outlets and foreign politicians to take action. Dual nationality Libyans also served the revolution by providing medical, material and financial assistance to Libyans in Libya and refugees in neighboring countries. Many quit their jobs and gave up their livelihoods and life savings to play their part in the revolution. Of course, we can never forget the dual nationality Libyans that made the ultimate sacrifice by fighting and giving up their lives for the sake of a free Libya.

The activist asked in his letter to delete this article that marginalizing a large number of Libyans who had fought against the Gaddafi regime for long time:

More practically speaking, it is our strong recommendation that Article 16, item 1 should be amended to remove the requirement for dual nationalities citizens to relinquish their dual nationality before registering themselves as an electoral candidate. As long as Libyan has a valid Libyan citizenship and has not committed any crimes, then he or she should be eligible to both vote AND run for elections. The two key tenets of a true democratic process.
Libyan dual citizens proved their loyalty to Libya during their long years of exile and more recently during the blessed Feb17th revolution. They provide Libya with a powerful asset of education and experience that the country desperately needs to achieve the goals set out by the Feb17th revolution. The solution that serves Libya best is enabling these patriotic Libyan citizens to serve their country without any discrimination or limitation.

On the other hand, a number of other activists as well as some of the civil organizations protested January 4 in front of the prime minister office in the Libyan capital Tripoli, against the election rule that gives women 10pc of the seats in Congress, or 20 out of 200 seats. This protest was organized by “The Free Generation Movement” as well as some other Women Rights organisations.

Details of the protest were posted on Facebook here:

The Free Generation Movement: All Women, men, Human Rights Activists, are invited to join in a demonstration opposing the 10% quota, outside the Prime Ministers Office, Treg Sikka, Tripoli, on Wednesday January 4th 2012 at 10:00 a.m.

Libyan political activist Hafed AlGhwell notes:

@HafedAlGhwell: Libyan #women are planning demonstrations in Tripoli & BenGhazi to protest the new election law in #libya

And social activist, Noor Toshana, expresses her displeasure for the article on women in the elections:

@NoorToshani: Don't tell me #LibyanWomen are politically ignorant. Relatively speaking, EVERYONE is. Gaddafi left no room for political practice/engagement

Activist, Joanne Leo, put a link of the Libyan Elections website, asking Libyans who have comments or complaints to send feedback:

@FromJoanne: #Libya #ATTENTION Send your Comments on Draft #ELECTION #LAW NOW Click “Send feedback” on website

Meanwhile, activists still hope that the government will take their views into consideration regarding these two articles. In the coming days the Electoral Law Committee, Council of Ministers and the National Transitional Council will be meeting to discuss the electoral law draft and decide in the light of citizens’ comments. The elections are slated to be held in June.

This post is part of our special coverage Libya Uprising 2011.

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