By George Grant.
Tripoli, 24 November:
More than four-fifths of Libyans want the committee tasked with drafting the permanent constitution to be elected by the public as opposed to appointed by the National Congress, according to a poll initiated by former Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur.
If respondents reflect broader public opinion, the findings challenge a widespread popular assumption that support for direct elections is largely confined to federalists in eastern Libya.
Eight-thousand nine-hundred and twenty-six people had voted in the poll at the time of writing, with 7,311 favouring elections compared with just 1,615 supporting the appointment option.
The survey is being hosted on Abushagur’s official Facebook page, and though not fully scientific, it nevertheless presents some interesting results. According to demographics obtained by the Libya Herald, 94 per cent of the 31,000 ‘fans’ of the page are Libyan, the majority of those from Tripoli and just over eight per cent from Benghazi. The vast majority of those who actually voted in the survey also appear to be Libyan.
Facebook is one of the most popular mediums for the dissemination of news and opinion in Libya and is widely used across the country. That being said, a disproportionate number of users are likely to be from the younger generation, whilst those engaged on the page of Mustafa Abushagur are likely to be towards the more politically active end of the spectrum and correspondingly more likely to favour greater direct input on issues such as the constitution.
The National Congress is presently engaged in deliberations on the makeup of the constitution-drafting committee, with the election or appointment question of central concern.
Under the 2011 Constitutional Declaration, Congress was tasked with appointing the 60-person body, with 20 members to be selected from each of Libya’s three regions. However, a last-minute decision by the National Transitional Committee in July decreed that the committee should instead by chosen by direct elections.
The move was largely designed to placate federalists in eastern Libya who said they feared the process would be dominated by Tripoli, but generated significant unhappiness amongst Congressmen and women, many of whom subsequently vowed to reverse the change.
Asked for his reaction to the poll, the head of Congress’s Constitutional and Legislative Committee said the findings would not impact upon the GNC’s deliberations.
“This could be very inaccurate and cannot be taken for granted”, Misrata independent Congressman Omar Abulifa told the Libya Herald this afternoon. “A lot of Qaddafi supporters use these sites and polls like this can be manipulated”.
The congressman also went on to suggest that it was not Abushagur’s place to be asking such questions in the first place.
“We are planning on carrying out our own consultations with various groups of Libyan people, including civil society, politicians and academics”, Abulifa added. “If we do, the survey will be a questionnaire and it will be circulated by hand, not online”.
Support for public consultation in the process is growing, with civil society groups in eastern Libya known already to be drawing up lists of potential names for the constitution-drafting committee, which they intend to present to Congress for approval.
Abulifa revealed that under the proposals presently being considered, the GNC’s public consultation period would run from 1 December 2012 to 17 February 2013. On that timeline, the final makeup of the constitution-drafting committee would likely not be concluded until well into next year, especially if the Congress does opt for public elections, which could take several months to arrange.
To date, no indication has been given as to whether there would be any qualification criteria for candidates wishing to stand for election, if that is the option chosen.
According to Abulifa, Congress has not yet reached a conclusion on any aspect of the drafting committee, but is currently considering proposals put forward by the Constitutional and Legislative Committee submitted in the past three days.