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Libya and the Presidential Elections

Libya and the Presidential Elections

Thursday, 15 April, 2021 - 11:15
Dr. Jebril El-Abidi
Libyan writer and researcher

Libya is currently facing the dilemma of electing its president either directly, through the people’s votes, as the Libyans want, or through parliament, as the minority represented by Islamic political groups want. After the decade-long presidential vacuum and the disputes over the president’s prerogatives between the speaker of parliament, prime minister, and the head of the judicial council, the time has come to strip this position of its power and turn it into an honorary position, as the vacancy in the presidency with all of its prerogatives was behind a significant chunk of the Libyan crisis.


The word for president in Arabic is the same word for the “head” of something, and the president is the “head” of everything. That is, he is the head of state, and he is the official who represents the state internationally, either by being present personally or by sending representatives, according to the system of governance.


The framework for appointing a head of state has taken many forms throughout history, from priests selecting them under theocratic systems to inheritance, till we arrived at direct elections. Notably, some elections adopt a system in which the president is elected indirectly, whereby there is no popular vote, or the popular vote is only part of the election process, and in these elections, an electoral college takes the final vote.


Regarding Libya’s case and the controversy over the constitutional framework for the next Lybian elections, the Legal Committee of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum met, but failed to agree on the constitutional framework because of a disagreement over the mechanism for electing the president, whether he should be elected by the people directly or by parliament. And this came after the majority had stressed the people’s right to elect their president while the members representing Islamic political movements favored having factions elect him and depriving the people of their right to choose.


A president who is not chosen by the people will not be their representative. Instead, he will only represent the class and group that had monopolized the right to elect him, thereby leaving him constrained and under its control.


Libya suffers from the problem of the revolution’s persistence, the state’s postponement, and the continued looting of Libya’s money without oversight or accountability, which perpetuates chaos in the country.


Meanwhile, supporters of political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood seek to elect a president through parliament and not directly through the people’s vote. This would make it easier for them to infiltrate votes and obtain the required percentage for their candidate, although in 2014, the Libyan parliament had issued Decision No. 5, which stipulates that the head of state must be elected through general, direct and secret ballots by the people.


Therefore, the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum’s Legal Committee cannot and does not have the right to override a legislative decision taken by a committee appointed by the International Mission.


The process of appointing a president through parliamentary elections, as the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to do, will only lead to the election of a president who does not represent the people. Indeed, it will result in choosing a president who only represents the faction that elected him through parliament, and thus, this president will not have any legitimacy.


Libya today needs a president who expresses the genuine will of the people, and this can only be achieved through a popular vote. Thus, every Libyan national who resides in Libya is a legitimate candidate for head of state. The Muslim Brotherhood, which does not enjoy any popularity in Libya, nor does it have a popular base, is seeking, with all its might and deception, to have the president elected by parliament and facilitate 200 members of parliament overriding 6 million Libyans.


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