Libya is set to embark on its first democratic journey in more than four decades when the country goes to the polls on July 7 to elect a General National Congress (GNC).
The 200-seat body will be tasked with re-drawing Muammar Gaddafi’s autocratic political system by drafting a new constitution, overseeing a new government and scheduling a new round of general elections.
Just under 2.9 million Libyans, or about 80 per cent of eligible voters, have registered to participate in the vote, the High National Elections Committee (HNEC) has announced.
The age required to stand for election is 21 years but neither members of Gaddafi’s regime nor members of the National Transitional Council, the current internationally-recognised government, are allowed to run.
For the 120 seats reserved for individual candidates, there are exactly 2,500 candidates, of whom only 85 are female.
The remaining 80 seats are set aside for the 130 political parties (or political entities, for lack of legislation that defines parties) that have fielded a total of 1,202 candidates, amongst them 540 women and 662 men.
To ensure the participation of female candidates, each party is obliged under electoral law to alternate men and women on their list, which the HNEC has termed “vertical equality”.
Another requirement for the parties is “horizontal equality,” meaning that if a male is put on the number one spot for a party’s list in Tripoli, a female is required to take up pole position for that party in Benghazi, or elsewhere.
Forty-two years of dictatorship have left Libya with a strong deficiency in political leaders, which now is a huge problem for the country.
Very few individual candidates are known on a national level, the rest are only known in their own communities.
The HNEC, tasked with preparing, implementing, supervising and monitoring the election process, will be responsible for announcing the results once the polling booths are closed.
Libya is divided into 13 constituents for the election, each of them allocated with a certain number of seats in congress.
A total of 100 seats are allocated to constituencies that make up the historic region of Tripolitania in the west, 60 for Cyrenaica in the east and 40 for Fezzan in the southwest.
This was a controversial compromise between dividing the country purely based on population and a constituent system based on geographical spread.
Once the newly elected congress holds its first session, the NTC will dissolve itself and the GNC will appoint the country’s prime minister and select a 60-member committee to draft the country’s constitution.
The members of the committee will be drawn equally (20-20-20) from the west, east and south of the country.
The committee will then have 120 days to adopt a draft constitution, and then 30 days to present it for referendum.
If the Libyan people approve the draft with a two-thirds majority of votes, the committee will endorse it as the country’s constitution and refer it to the GNC for declaration.
A two-thirds majority was chosen to ensure that no one region could have a majority on its own.
Once the country’s constitution is in place and the new electoral law is announced, the HNEC will hold general elections within 180 days.
The HNEC will again monitor the election process and within 30 days announce the name of Libya’s long-awaited democratically elected president.