Libya will be holding its first general elections next month, the first free and multi-party polls perhaps in 47 years.

Over a million voters have registered since voter registration opened on May 1. The two-week exercise is to end on May 14. But candidates and parties were given only eight days to register.

Parties and candidates competing for the 200 seats of the National Congress (parliament) have protested saying they won't have enough time to meet the requirements in order to get them registered. 

The parties also criticised the National Transitional Council, the interim government, for being slow to enact laws that regulate their work and formation.

(The NTC passed the parties law late in April, but tens of parties were created regardless, though they can't run for elections unless they are officially approved.) 
Libya will be holding its first general elections next month, the first free and multi-party polls perhaps in 47 years.

Over a million voters have registered since voter registration opened on May 1. The two-week exercise is to end on May 14. But candidates and parties were given only eight days to register.

Parties and candidates competing for the 200 seats of the National Congress (parliament) have protested saying they won't have enough time to meet the requirements in order to get them registered. 

The parties also criticised the National Transitional Council, the interim government, for being slow to enact laws that regulate their work and formation.

(The NTC passed the parties law late in April, but tens of parties were created regardless, though they can't run for elections unless they are officially approved.) 

The election commission decided to extend by a week the deadline to May 15th to allow parties and candidates more time.  Around 58 political parties or entities and over a 1,000 independent candidates have registered so far. 

Other problems parties complain about include the "vagueness" and complexity of the election law. They also blame the election commission and the interim government for failing to raise public awareness of the electoral process through civic education. 

Mohamed Sowane, head of the Justice and Construction Party, widely thought to be the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood (though he denies it), says there are missing gaps in the electoral law and the constitutional declaration.

"The law is also unclear on how the elected next national congress will form the new government and how the new constitution is written," he says.
"We hope these will be clarified and amended. Our goal now is for the elections to go ahead," the 59-year-old Sowane, who has never taken part in elections in his entire life, said.

Other parties and coalition say they are facing many challenges.

The Alliance of National Forces, which is led by Mahmoud Jibril, the former interim prime minister, cited flaws and lack of proper state campaign about the polls.

"This is a general opinion that … the transitional council and the interim government didn't work in a proper way to educate the people,” said Faisel Krekshi, the spokesman for the alliance, adding that his group represents more than 60 political parties.

“We are passing 42 years of dictatorship and monopoly, so people don't have the experience ... We believe things could be far better.”
But there is another hurdle that candidates and parties will have to jump over. 

They are operating in a society where political thought and parties had been forbidden. It was considered treason to be a member of a party under the regime of Muammar Gaddafi.

So they the parties and politicians - many unknown to Libyans - will have to change a society that's not used to political pluralism and sometimes even not convinced of its worthiness.

I asked a layman in his mid 30s if he had registered to vote. "I swear I don’t know any of them [candidates]," he said.  

Of course there are known figures, religious and/or armed groups that stood against Gaddafi but it's not clear how popular they are. 

And if you want to draw conclusions going by the outcome of elections in countries that were swept by the Arab Spring, the Islamists will probably make the big gains. 

Despite the security concerns resulting from the high number of armed former rebels, there is hope. Why? Because over a million people have registered, as have  tens of political entities and over a 1,000 candidates.
I think it's a message that many Libyans are keen to participate in shaping the future of the country they want to live in.