Tripoli, 16 July:
Libya’s first nationwide elections in almost 50 years have been hailed as a success by both national and international . . .[restrict]observation teams deployed to polling stations across the country.
International teams joined more than 10,000 domestic observers for the elections, which took place on 7th July.
“The holding of the elections represents a remarkable achievement of which Libyans are rightly proud”, the Carter Center – headed by former US President Jimmy Carter – said in a statement. “In areas visited by Carter Center observers, voting was orderly and polling stations were well managed and efficient. Polling staff appeared well trained and enthusiastically conducted the elections in a neutral and professional manner.”
The Carter Center had 45 observers accredited for the elections, and deployed 16 teams to more than 160 polling stations on voting day, across 11 of 13 electoral districts.
Having only been formed in February, the Center hailed the HNEC for managing to prepare for the elections in such a short time-frame as well as its “extraordinary efforts to conduct polling in all locations despite security incidents in the immediate election period and on polling day.
The Center voiced its concern that the compressed time-frame for the elections meant that training and promulgation of regulations were negatively effected in some areas. “Some training of polling staff was incomplete and important aspects of the legal framework were only finalised in the days before the elections”, the Center said.
In spite of disruption by federalists in eastern Libya and ongoing security issues in the south around Kufra, 94 per cent of polling centres were able to open on the morning of the elections, with additional stations opening later in the day.
Security concerns prevented the deployment of Carter Center observers in some areas and restricted their movement in others.
The elections were also hailed as a success by the Libyan Association for Election Observation (LAEO), one of the largest election observation missions, with 686 trained observers, 28 per cent of them women.
“As a result of the success of election day, national and international organisations alike have certified that Libyans have efficiently managed to administrate this day, despite more than four decades of dictatorial regime”, the LAEO said.
The organisation, which also covered the Tunisian elections under the oversight of the European Union, deployed observers in 16 towns across 10 constituencies, including areas that suffered from disruption such as Kufra and Ajdabiya.
The LAEO reported that of the stations they monitored:
98.6 per cent were prepared with all necessary election materials; 98.4 per cent kept voting secret; 0.7 per cent witnessed political campaigning either inside or outside; 89.5 per cent had a heavy security presence; and 0.5 per cent witnessed security incidents inside the polling stations.
The most serious criticisms offered by the LAEO were a comparatively widespread lack of familiarity with the elecion process amongst voters, a phenomenon witnessed by 28 per cent of LAEO observers, as well as the lack of preparation to accommodate disabled voters in some cases, with 31 per cent of polling stations not providing adequate facilities.
The commitment of Libyans to upholding the spirit, if not always the letter, of election laws was perhaps best demonstrated by an incident in Tripoli, when staff brought a polling booth and ballot papers outside of the station onto the street so that a disabled man could vote from his car.
The Arab League also deployed an election team on polling day and has delivered a positive assessment.
“The Arab League team confirms that the elections of the Libyan National Congress took place in an atmosphere of credibility, transparency, integrity, and in accordance with international standards and allowed the Libyans to exercise their right to choose their candidates without hindrance or pressure”, it said in a statement.
The Arab League deployed a team headed by Ambassadir Mohammed Khamlish, assistant secretary general of the league, along with 15 other observing members from nine different Arab countries.
The team were spread across six of the 13 constituencies and had a presence in 140 polling stations.
Amongst other positive remarks, the Arab League team welcomed the fact that the vast majority of polling stations opened on time; that the stations conformed with accepted international standards; and that polling staff cooperated positively with voters and were in “full compliance with the instructions and guidance issued by the HNEC”.
Criticisms included the fact that voter lists displayed outside the polling stations were hand-written, meaning they could be exposed to alteration and change, as well as being difficult for voters to read; the limited knowledge of some voters on ballot procedures; and a reliance on counting the number of voters through ballot-casting forms as opposed to taking actual voting statistics from registration lists, which may have lead to inaccuracies in calculating the exact number of voters.
Total turnout for the elections has been calculated at around 63 per cent, with more than 1.7 million of Libya’s 2.8 million registered electors having cast their vote. Final results are expected later this week.