The Libyan Elections: “One of the best I have seen so far” — EU chief monitor

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Alexander Graf Lamsdorff, head of the EU’s Libyan Election Assessment Team,                                       speaking in Tripoli at the launch of its report

Tripoli, 27 October:

The European Union’s Election Assessment Team (EU EAT) produced its final report last week on the 7 July elections for the General National Congress.  It is an extremely positive document, with the team reporting in the summary that it “commends the Libyan people for their commitment to democratic values, high participation and dignified behaviour during the whole electoral process”. It “applauded” too the efforts of the High National Election Commission and said that of the approximately 90 election-day commplaints, “most were of a minor nature”. 

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff was head of the EU election observer mission to Libya.  In Tripoli for the report, he was interviewed by Mirco Keilberth.

MK: You came back to Tripoli to present another report about the July elections. Did you have to reconsider any of your assessments from July?

AGL: No. The European Union observed the July-election with a small but professional team. We had published only a preliminary report. I came back to Tripoli to present the final one, a very thorough document, that contains our observations and recommendations. I presented it to the president [of the GNC], to the election commission and to civil society stakeholders with the aim of improving the next elections in Libya.

So, what do you think finally about the National Congress election?

As we said immediately after the elections, we were surprised how well they were administered. I have witnessed elections in many countries and quite frankly

these were, if not the best, clearly one of the best elections I have ever seen.

That the Libyan authorities could organise a nationwide event in a professional and effective manner, despite the tensions in Benghazi and Ajdabiya, should be seen as a positive signal for the future of Libya.

What are your recommendations for the Libyan government?

We recommend to build on the success of the July elections by retaining the institutional skills of the High National Elections Commission. The team and the structure will hopefully not be changed.

We also believe that it is now absolutely urgent to make progress on the selection criteria for the Constitutional Commision, to drive the democratic transition forward.

We think that an election calendar should be published. A schedule would make it easier for candidates and parties to know exactly what needs to be done at what point in time.

As individual candidates are concerned, we believe if they have a party affiliation they should let the voters know. This should be an obligation to create transparency and enable voters to make an informed decision.

Many individual candidates were in fact members of a party. Most of the voters did npt know about it. Would this be illegal in Europe?

For example, in my country Germany the electoral system is very similar to the Libyan one. We also have party lists and individual candidates. If a candidate is member of a party, he would always make it public. It would even be illegal not to make it public. A party affiliation is something voters must know about.

An example: If someone wants to support the Justice and Construction Party, he would vote for their party list. If he then votes for an individual candidate who does not tell him that he is a member of the National Forces Alliance, he might neutralise his first vote.

I strongly believe that transparency and informed decision-making are the basis of a functional democracy.

In Kufra, 1,000 people were not allowed vote. Was this a correct decision by the electoral commission?

We do not want parts of the population being disenfranchised. We recommend the digitalisation of the voter register, so everybody knows who is able to vote and who not.

The people who legally cannot vote certainly should be prevented from voting. In Kufra the problem was about citizenship. The incident shows that the Constitutional Commission must have an inclusive composition, it must contain members of the ethnic minorities of Libya. The new constitution should include all groups of Libyans. Only then they can have their part in a democratic Libya.

There must also be an adequate representation of women, young people, the disabled and business representatives. It could be a truly national document that reflects the social contract of all Libyans for the future of their country.

What is the official recommendation of the European Union for the formation of this Constitutional Commission?

There is no explicit recommendation — except that we want to see Libya`s democratic transition to be continued. It is entirely up to the Libyans to decide how this is to be done.

What we suggest, however, is to speed up the selection of the members of the Commission. There is a timeline in the constitutional declaration and the General National Congress is a transitional institution. We believe it is important for Libya to move out of a transitional mode into a stable democratic mode.

A few days before the elections, the NTC decided that the members of the Constitutional Commission would be chosen in countrywide elections. What do you think about that idea?

We all were very surprised by this move of the NTC. We expect the GNC to reconsider this decision. It is our concern that a general election for the members of the Constitutional Commission might delay the whole process. [/restrict]

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