WASHINGTON, DC, June 27, 2018 - After convening a meeting of officials and Libya experts on Capitol Hill on June 22nd, listening to a range of informed views and reflecting on the country's history and potential, the National Council on US-Libya Relations announces the following positions on elections in Libya:
1. The Council recognizes that properly-organized elections are essential to ending Libya's divisions, collapse of governance, and security and economic crisis.
2. The Council believes it is critical to maintain the target date of December 10th, agreed at the International Conference convened by President Macron in Paris last month, as a way of generating urgency, internally and internationally.
3. At the same time, the Council: recognizes the inordinate risks in holding elections without a comprehensive plan to address the glaring and formidable obstacles; and recommends the following approach to the four principal election challenges:
(a) (Constitution) Revive the 1963 Constitution as a feasible, organic basis for elections:
While the Constitutional Drafting Assembly has produced a draft Constitution, the product and process are too flawed – and disagreements too wide – to be resolved by the Paris target date of September. A costly Constitutional referendum might fail. A growing chorus in Libya offers a better alternative: adapt the original Libyan constitution of 1951 (as amended in 1963) – the Constitution that legally is still in effect -- as an interim basis for governance and elections. A National Convention of tribal elders and mayors – leaders who enjoy legitimacy -- should be called under UN auspices to adapt the 1963 Constitution to present day needs. The chief task is to establish the three-member Sovereign Council (originally designed to supplant the king in the event of his incapacity), and to endorse elections for this executive body and the national parliament. By placing executive powers temporarily in the hands of the three-member Sovereign Council, this approach sidesteps the contentious question of who would become Libya's President. In time, a new Constitution would be put to referendum, followed by elections for parliament and President.
(b) (Electoral Laws) HNEC and UN draft; National Convention ratifies electoral laws:
It is unlikely that Libya's fractious bodies will produce an agreed electoral law by September, as agreed in Paris. Given the urgency, the High National Election Commission, in consultation with the United Nations, should produce a draft law for elections, utilizing the 1951/1963 Constitution, as the basis. The National Convention would ratify this draft during its Constitutional review.
(c) (Security) Deployment of international election security force under UN mandate:
The Paris declaration states that "Libya's official security forces, with appropriate support and coordination from the UN as well as regional organizations and the international community, will be responsible for safeguarding the electoral process …." The reality is that there are virtually no "official" Libyan security forces; instead the country is 'ruled' largely by fragmented militias. Many militia leaders have a vested interest in the status quo and have the means to disrupt or prevent conduct of fair elections. Without robust security preparations, including meaningful deterrents to spoilers, elections risk a repetition of the experience in 2014. The "appropriate support" from the UN and regional/international community is the deployment of an election security force under UN mandate comprising UN peacekeeping troops along with troops from the African Union as well as police from willing EU nations.
(d) (Logistics and Funding) Immediately release Central Bank funding for HNEC:
The May 2nd suicide attack on the Libyan High National Election Commission by the so-called Islamic State has set back election preparations, hurting capacity and recruitment. In addition to continued, reinforced international assistance to the HNEC, the Libyan Government of National Accord, which controls the Libyan Central Bank, must immediately release the $60-80 million dollars recommended to launch the Commission's work towards elections by the very tight schedule of this December.
The National Council on U.S.-Libya Relations is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening US engagement in Libya to attain a successful democratic transition. The Council provides U.S. public, institutions and policymakers with timely and accurate information on developments in Libya, where it has a wide network across the country.
Edwrad P. Jospeh, Exec. Director
Hassan Sassi, Vice Chair