Elections in Libya on 7 July ‘Extraordinary Accomplishment’, Demonstrate How Far Country Has Come in Practice, Spirit of Democracy, Security Council Told

18 July 2012

Elections in Libya on 7 July ‘Extraordinary Accomplishment’, Demonstrate How Far Country Has Come in Practice, Spirit of Democracy, Security Council Told

18 July 2012
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

8607th Meeting* (AM)

Elections in Libya on 7 July ‘Extraordinary Accomplishment’, Demonstrate How

Far Country Has Come in Practice, Spirit of Democracy, Security Council Told

At Same Time, Says Special Representative, No Underestimating Challenges

New Government Will Face in Areas of Security, Justice, Institution-Building

Briefing the Security Council on Libya in what he expected would be his last time as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Ian Martin said this morning that the 7 July elections showed how far the country had come in the practice and spirit of democracy following the civil war that toppled Muammar Qadhafi, as he also outlined the challenges ahead.

“Libyan men and women, young and old, amassed in queues at polling centres to cast their votes and then displayed their inked fingers with the pride and emotion of people who had so long been denied democratic freedoms” Mr. Martin, who is also the Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), said in a meeting that also heard from Libya’s representative, adding “Starting from a complete dearth of electoral experience and a hugely demanding timetable, the organization of the elections was an extraordinary accomplishment”.

In the poll for the National Congress, a total of 2,051 candidates, including 84 women, took part as individuals in the majoritarian race, while 1,207 candidates, including 545 women, contested the proportional representation race on the lists of political entities.  There were no conflicts between candidates or their supporters, very few allegations of misconduct and a spirit of goodwill among political entities and observance of the voluntary code of conduct that UNSMIL helped to facilitate.

Unfortunately, he said, the period leading up to the polls was marred by violent incidents, mostly in the east, as grievances over the allocation of seats were advanced as justification for disrupting the elections.  Such incidents included the burning of ballot papers, the firing on a helicopter transporting electoral materials and killing an electoral official, road blocks and inter-tribal fighting in the east.  However, officials and ordinary citizens kept the polls open. 

He praised, in particular, the Election Commission, for the inclusivity and transparency of the election and the exemplary relation with some 55 staff of the United Nations electoral support team.  There were special measures for internally displaced persons and the accreditation of over 20,000 domestic observers and party agents, as well as 180 international observers, who gave generally positive reviews, with recommendations for future electoral processes.

Over 1.7 million people voted, he said, with women mobilized as candidates, supporters and civil society activists, with many activities to develop skills, often supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  Subject to the certification of the results, it appeared that 33 women had been elected to the 200-member Congress.  Full preliminary results were released last night, although the Commission’s decisions on the small number of complaints lodged must be ruled upon (within a 14-day period) before final results could be certified.

Following the certification, he said, the National Transition Council would convene the first meeting of the National Congress and would itself be dissolved.  UNSMIL and UNDP had been providing support for the transition and stood ready to support the new body.  This, he noted, would be the first peaceful and democratic transfer of power in Libya. 

In order to meet the concerns of the east that it was allocated fewer seats than the more populous west, the actual drafting of the constitution would be done by a 60-member Constitutional Commission, with equal representation from Libya’s three historic regions.  Adjustments on eastern representation were also made on the eve of the elections in response to demands, but the new National Congress must uphold those decisions.  In any case, there was now a new opportunity to channel the debate on regional representation and governance through political dialogue and the constitution-making process.

More urgent than that process, however, was the formation of a new government, with a new Prime Minister to be chosen within one month from the first meeting of the National Congress.  A smooth process was planned, he said, but there was no underestimating the challenges and the expectations which the new Government would face.

Foremost among those challenges was security and addressing the status of the revolutionary brigades, he said.  Libya’s citizens overwhelmingly want the rule of law to prevail, in a weapons-free environment, where only neutral State agents responded to crime, detained suspects and responded to local conflicts and secured Libya’s borders against the trafficking of persons, drugs and weapons.  Long-term answers to that challenge must include the development of a national security strategy and improved inter-agency coordination.  Efforts to date to integrate revolutionaries and brigades, he added, had lacked an overall concept and coordination and needed urgent review as part of the security reform agenda.

Over recent months, he said, UNSMIL had worked with the Libyan authorities and international partners to develop a Defence White Paper that would serve to identify the main risks and threats and to lay out the principle military tasks, structures and principles.  Key tasks in the months ahead included the building of a Ministry of Defence that could perform civilian oversight and other essential roles.  In addition, UNSMIL was proposing to assist the Ministry of Interior to conduct a strategic review towards the modernization of the Libyan Police Forces, complementing current assistance in that area.

Lack of coordination between different security agencies, he said, had thus far stalled the development of an integrated concept for border security.  In addition, control of weapons and munitions, for which UNSMIL and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNSMAS) had been working closely with the Libyan armed forces and certain brigades, had been inhibited by unclear allocations of responsibility and lack of coordination among Libyan actors.

He called progress in the area of justice disappointing as well, with more robust prosecuting authorities, functioning and protected courts and enhanced judicial police essential, particularly for adjudicating the situations of those detained since the end of the conflict.  “The capacity to do justice is essential to reconciliation,” he said, adding that UNSMIL continued to give priority to support in that area, as well as for the Fact-finding and Reconciliation Commission.

Amid continuing human rights abuses, however, there were positive signs of the defence of human rights.  The Supreme Court struck down the law on “Glorification of the Dictator” that would have threatened freedom of expression, civil society was proving vibrant and some newly-elected members of the National Congress had records as human rights defenders.  UNSMIL continued to support capacity-building to monitor and report on violations and provide assistance to victims.

Other challenges the country must face included institution-building and reform of “an old and bloated bureaucracy”, economic diversification, creation of employment opportunities, especially for youth, fighting corruption and proper regulation of migrant labour.

Turning to UNSMIL’s mandate for the near future, he said that there was no reason to think that the current responsibilities would cease to be valid or would be rejected by the country, in the areas the Mission was already active:  support to the democratic transition, promoting rule of law and human rights, restoring public security and countering proliferation of arms.  There might well be additional requests for support from the United Nations, he acknowledged, saying that the Mission’s concept of flexibility and the ability to mobilize surge capacity, should serve it well throughout 2012.

In the area of assistance to the coordination of international actors, he said that good results had been obtained in electoral support and other areas, but had been weaker in others, notably the security sector, where bilateral interests were strong.  “At a time when a new context will offer new needs and opportunities for the sharing of international experience and best practice, I believe Libya will be best served by a recommitment by all concerned that the United Nations should play the central role in supporting Libyan efforts to coordinate international assistance,” he said.

Following Mr. Martin’s presentation, the representative of Libya, Ibrahim O. A. Dabbashi, said the initial results of the Libyan elections had been announced this morning in Tripoli.  By all accounts, they had been conducted freely and fairly, and in accordance with international standards.  The Libyan people would not have achieved that goal without the many sacrifices and lives lost in ridding the country of its former dictator, who, for 40 years, used Libyans as his personal slaves and killed anyone who dared speak out against his regime or in favour of democracy. 

The Libyan people, he said, were taking firm steps forward on the road to democracy and modern statehood, and on their behalf, he thanked the Security Council, particularly for its creation of UNSMIL.  The Council had undoubtedly

contributed to transforming Libya.  He also commended the Mission and the important role played by Mr. Martin, wishing him all future success.

The meeting began at 11:43 a.m. and ended at 12:09 p.m.

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*     The 6806th Meeting was closed.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.