By Michel Cousins.
Tripoli, 3 June:
It is now certain beyond any reasonable doubt that the elections for the National Conference on 19 June will be delayed, Libya Herald can reveal.
A number of diplomats in Tripoli have said that in the past few days they had been informed that the election date would be rescheduled. “I can guarantee that they will not take place on 19 June”, said one ambassador. “They will be delayed”, said another.
Several reasons were given for the postponement. There was the decision by the High National Election Commission (HNEC) to extend by one week the period for registering candidates and parties. As a result, the final list of vetted candidates is not due to be released until Tuesday which would give them just two weeks to campaign. This is seen not enough time for voters to find out about them and make informed choices.
There is also a very practical reason for the delay. “The ballot papers will not be ready for 19 June,” another diplomat disclosed.
The reason given for not yet announcing the delay is that the HNEC has not made up its mind when the poll should be. “They cannot announce a delay without at the same time announcing when the new date will be”, one of the diplomats said.
There have been persistent rumours in recent days that the elections would be delayed but until now officials have likewise persistently denied them. However, when asked today, Sunday, if a new date would be announced, an official at the HNEC who did not want to be named said “not yet”. The situation was “not really clear”, he explained. The commission would meet during the week to make a decision, he said
The diplomats indicated that the new date is likely to be in July rather than June. The 10th of July was mentioned — three weeks later than the original date. The UN which is advising the High National Election Commission and which has been pressing strongly for a delay to give more time to campaigning, is said to favour a date in July.
A number of observers have earlier spoken of 30 June as a possible date but this is thought unlikely because it is a Saturday and part of the normal weekend. The concern is that on a weekend, a number of voters may go away and not vote. The HNEC wants the election to be to be in the middle of the week. That will then be made a public holiday for the event, thus (it is hoped) ensuring that the maximum amount of people go out and vote.
It is widely perceived that the Libyan public will accept a delay providing the reasons are clearly explained and a date is given that is not too far away. Two or three weeks is thought acceptable. But it has to be before Ramadan, which begins on 20 July (depending on the first sighting of the new moon). After that it would be seen as too late.