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Department of Political Affairs

UN Assistance to Libya's Landmark Elections

The United Nations assisted Libya as it held, on 7 July, its first free election in 47 years. The nationwide balloting to elect a Libyan National Congress was a key step in the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy after a popular revolution swept away last year the brutal dictatorship of Moammar Gadhafi.

A woman holds an electoral registration card during a demonstration in central Benghazi calling for the holding of Libyas first elections in 47 years on time. Photo: UNSMIL, Iason Foounten

The task of preparing for Libya’s historic elections has been monumental given the absence of any electoral machinery or experience, and the short period since the end of the fighting.
 
“No one should underestimate what has been achieved,” said Ian Martin, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, which is assisting the country through its post-war transition.

Video Reports from Libya

“Libyans have had the opportunity to choose their own representatives freely in a credible election, fulfilling one of their revolution’s main goals,” SRSG Martin said. “This has been made possible thanks to the resolve of the interim authorities, the relentless efforts of electoral officials, and above all the determination of the people”

  Libyan women participating in the landmark elections on 7 July 2012.

Libyan women waiting to cast their ballots in the landmark elections of 7 July 2012.
Photo: UNSMIL, Iason Foounten
 

Smooth Registration of Voters and Candidates

Registration of voters and candidates in May went smoothly, with more than 2.8 million of an estimated 3.4 million voters answering the call to register. More than 3,700 candidates registered, running either as individuals or on lists of the numerous newly created political entities. Over 600 of the candidates were women, marking an unprecedented level of women’s participation. Training took place across the country for Libyan officials tasked with managing the balloting on Election Day.

Throughout this process, the United Nations has supported the authorities and all concerned by providing technical advice. The UN’s engagement is guided by the principle of national ownership: Libyans carried out their revolution and Libyans should now determine their own future.
 
Technical Expertise on Elections
 
Through a team of electoral advisors, the United Nations worked closely with Libya’s independent High National Election Commission, offering technical expertise earned from post-conflict election experiences around the world, to ensure a credible electoral process. Meanwhile, UNSMIL’s police advisors embedded within the Ministry of the Interior assisted the Libyans with a security plan for the elections.
 
Security personnel from the Supreme Security Committee demonstrate martial arts moves during a graduation ceremony on 4 July 2012 in the eastern Libyan city of Ajdabiya. Photo: UNSMIL, Iason Foounten
Security personnel from the Supreme Security Committee demonstrate martial arts moves during a graduation ceremony on 4 July 2012 in the eastern Libyan city of Ajdabiya. The graduates are part of Libyan efforts to provide security during the historic elections on 7 July.
Photo: UNSMIL, Iason Foounten

 

What makes this election so significant is that it sets the stage for the next steps on the road to democracy. A National Congress imbued with popular legitimacy will appoint a government. A commission will draft a new constitution that fulfills the people’s aspirations.

The people will have their say in a referendum on the new constitution, probably in early 2013, to be followed by another election for a legislative body, which will be Libya’s first full parliament in half a century.
 
Support from Arms Proliferation to Human Rights
 
The UN mission is providing support in other key areas of Libya’s transition.
 
UNSMIL will continue, for example, to provide expert advice to the police and the military on how to build a sustainable security structure while integrating former revolutionaries. The UN also will continue assisting authorities in other priority areas identified by the Libyans. These include human rights protection, transitional justice and the rule of law; the safe storage and control of the large amounts of weapons in the country; and countering arms proliferation and controlling Libya’s borders. The UN will also continue encouraging the promotion of participation of Libyan women in all national efforts.
 

Libya’s recovery faces numerous challenges, particularly local conflicts and security incidents in a nation still awash in weapons. Ethnic and regional differences left unaddressed and often exacerbated by the previous regime have resurfaced. In some areas tensions have erupted into fighting. 

That Libyans are going forward, despite these difficulties, to determine the future of their country through an inclusive electoral process is in itself an encouraging sign that they are committed to seeing democracy prevail.

Video Reports from Libya

 
The United Nations will remain engaged after the National Congress elections to help Libyans build on the progress made and fulfil their aspiration for a democratic, stable and prosperous State.   

  

DPA E-News, July 2012

Related Links

Video reports from Libya

UN Secretary-General on the elections in Libya

UN envoy praises Libyan election

More about the UN's work in Libya

Website of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL)

 

Girls wave and flash victory signs at a passing helicopter during a military parade in the western city of Zawiya, Libya, held to mark the anniversary of an uprising last year that cleared the way for the anti-Qadhafi forces' march on Tripoli. 11 June 2012, Photo: UNSMIL, Iason Foounten

Girls wave and flash victory signs at a passing helicopter during a military parade in the western city of Zawiya, Libya, held to mark the anniversary of last year's uprising. 11 June 2012.
Photo: UNSMIL, Iason Foounten