LFJL welcomes start of constitutional process, calls for more representation and public engagement

July 18, 2013

On 16 July 2013, Libya’s General National Congress (GNC) passed what is the most crucial law in its year term in office, the law (the Election Law) governing the election of the Constitutional Drafting Committee (the Committee). The Election Law sets forth the criteria for the electoral system, candidacy, and voting, which will determine who is able to participate in the constitution drafting and voting processes.

Initial details of the law announced by GNC President Abu Sahmain indicate the elections will take the form of first past the post system of independent candidates to elect the 60-member committee, as opposed to a parties list system.  Twenty seats will be allocated to each of the western, eastern and southern geographic regions. Women have been allocated six (6) seats, two (2) per region, while the following cultural and linguistic minority groups have been allocated two (2) seats each: the Tebu, the Amazigh, and the Tuareg.  

Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) acknowledges this as a commendable effort to achieve a diverse and inclusive Committee. LFJL expresses its concern, however, with the way in which representation is to be achieved. The quota allocated to women is insufficient where women represent 49% of the population.  Furthermore, the measures outlined in the Election Law to fulfill the quota may have a negative impact on women’s participation. In order to fulfill the quota some districts will be made to run only women candidates. Culturally, this may not be accepted, and may result in negativity towards women candidates or lack of participation. The GNC must ensure the ways in which these quotas are fulfilled, for example through districting, aim to foster and not hinder participation.

LFJL is further concerned by the lack of public consultations and engagement by members of congress with their constituents during the initial phase of the constitution-making process including the drafting of the Election Law. As part of LFJL’s Destoori tour, where we visited over 35 communities, we learned that elected officials have not returned to discuss the constitutional process in all but one community.

“We acknowledge and praise the GNC’s attempts at inclusiveness, and welcome the President of the GNC’s emphasis on public legitimacy as achieved through elections and a referendum on the constitution,” said LFJL Director Elham Saudi. “However, in such a critical process, where the rights of all people are at stake, there must be true representation by fostering the participation of everyday people within Libya, so that the final outcome, the constitution, reflects the aspirations of all people.  A quota alone will not achieve that if efforts to engage the public at the grassroots prior to the election is not a fundamental part of the process,” added Saudi.

The opaque and vague process with which the Election Law was passed indicates that the GNC has not yet appreciated the need to engage the population and foster public participation, through public consultation or outreach by members of the GNC to their constituents. Key features of the rule of law are accessibility of laws and transparency in the drafting process.

LFJL urges the government to make a stronger effort to engage with the public throughout the entire constitution-making process, beyond the two occasions of public voting, to ensure that the public is informed ahead of both elections and to ensure that the constitution receives the public legitimacy it deserves.

What are your thoughts?

  • Are the six seats allocated to women enough to ensure that the participation of women is not merely tokenistic in nature? Is it fair representation for half of Libya’s population? 

  • Are minorities adequately represented with 2 seats per group? Should more be done to ensure their active participation such as electoral districting which is sensitive to minority populations’ geographic locations?  

  • What about other groups not mentioned such as religious minorities, special needs citizens, political minorities, etc.? Do they deserve a voice on the Committee?  

  • Should the Political Isolation Law apply to candidates running for the Committee, even if the constitution is intended to last longer than the 10-year period of isolation provided for in the Political Isolation Law?  

  • Was the GNC sufficiently engaged with the public and with civil society during the drafting of the law? Was the process transparent and did it foster public opinion?

Join us in the conversation on our Facebook Page and Twitter or e-mail us at destoori@libyanjustice.org.  

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LFJL’s full analysis of the Law for the Election of the Constitutional Drafting Committee will be released next week.

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