By George Grant.
Tripoli, 18 November:
Update: For an update on this issue see the Libya Herald article of 20 November which can be access here.
No more local council elections will take place in Libya until after the permanent Constitution has been ratified, according to a decision taken by the National Congress that emerged today.
Under the provision, any local council that has already been elected will remain in place, but any town or region which has not yet completed local council election procedures will have them cancelled.
The move throws the Tripoli Local Council elections into serious doubt, with an announcement having been made only today that they would now be held on 23 December.
In fact, considerable confusion has surrounded the law, with Congressmen providing differing versions of events and one insisting that no decision had yet been made at all.
What appears to have transpired, however, is that a decision was taken on this issue several weeks ago but for some reason never announced.
“We voted on this perhaps three weeks ago”, Harawi independent Congressman Saad Ben Sharada told the Libya Herald. “The problem was, nobody knew about it. I had people ringing me up asking me about local council elections, and I was saying to them, ‘there are no local council elections any more; we already voted on this’.”
Sharada said the vote was not included in the Congress’s official bulletin, although the reason for this remains unclear.
According to Salah Joudah, a leading independent Congressman for Benghazi, the law, which he agreed was supposed to have been enacted several weeks ago, will now be reviewed by a legal committee to determine when it should now come into effect.
“All local elections have been stopped and we should have a final decision on this in the next 48 hours; this is the final stage”, Joudah said. “We [Congress] made the decision, but we must go to the law committee to get a final decision about when it will come into effect.”
Joudah insisted that as things currently stood, “the Tripoli elections and all the local council elections in the country will be cancelled”.
Congressmen say that the rationale behind the decision is the need to bring some semblance of unity and structure to the way Libya is governed ahead of a definitive framework being put in place by the Constitution.
Following the total upheaval of last year’s revolution, Libya’s political class has frequently resorted to making the rules up as they go along, a process arguably made all the more chaotic by the emergence of new local councils with nebulous remits following elections over which the central government had no control.
As for the fate of the Tripoli Local Council elections, many in the capital will perhaps be relieved to see the back of what increasingly looked to become a costly white elephant.
Thus far, the elections have been pushed back on three occasions, and popular apathy towards the vote is widespread. So far, less than a fifth of Tripoli’s 1.1 million inhabitants have registered to vote, whilst some 300 candidates have submitted their names to stand.
The Libya Herald will provide greater clarity regarding the local council elections law, including the fate of the Tripoli elections, as further details emerge.