Elections in Libya will be held on July 7 to elect 200 members to the General National Congress (GNC) (Mutamar Al Chaab Al Aam). The GNC will replace the interim government of the National Transitional Council run by Mr Abdul Rahim El-Kleib. For these 200 seats, more than 2500 independent candidates and 142 political entities are in the fray. Some of the major political coalitions are the Justice and Development Party (JDP) led by Mohammed Sowan, National Centrist Party led by Ali Tarhouni and 17th coalition of political parties and civil society groups led by Mohamed Jibril.
Libya last held elections in 1964 under King Idriss. A large number of Libyans have never voted in their lives. Thus, the candidates have to campaign as well as teach their constituents what exactly they have to do on Election Day. The candidates themselves will be campaigning for the first time. Thus, how effectively they can get their message across remains a question.
The electoral system is split between majoritarianism and proportional representation. The 200 seats are distributed over 17 districts and 73 constituencies. Further, out of 200 only 120 seats will be selected by majoritarianism in which one voter will be allowed to cast only one vote and the candidate who gets the maximum votes wins and 80 seats will be elected by proportional representation in which each voter will vote for a party and the parties will get representation as per their vote share. Out of the 73 constituencies 19 will have only a majoritarian contest and 4 will have only a proportional contest the remaining 50 will have both majoritarian and proportional contests. The system of proportional representation seems to have been given to be seen as giving voices to all communities and assure them that their interests will be protected no matter who the leader is. These points to a sense of mistrust between communities which will only make Libya’s progress more difficult.
Western Libya has been given 120 seats and eastern Libya has been given 60 seats. Following the announcement resentment has built up in the east where leaders feel they have been given too little. The Bengazi office of the Libyan High Election Commission was attacked by the militias of these leaders. Thus, the NTC faces huge challenges in ensuring smooth conduct of the elections.
The primary task of the GNC will be to select a 60 member committee to draft a constitution. The constitution will have to be drafted and adopted by a two thirds majority by the GNC within 120 days of its first meeting. The constitution will have to be ratified by a general referendum within 30 days of its being adopted by the GNC. Once a constitution is ratified, general elections will be called in 2013.