Libya elections: Religious, regional or tribal platforms banned

By AFP
Published: April 26, 2012

Libya's interim prime minister Abdel Rahman al-Kib speaks during a press conference in Tripoli on April 25, 2012 where he accused the ruling National Transitional Council of hindering his government's efforts to hold elections for a constituent assembly on time. PHOTO: AFP

TRIPOLI: Libya’s first law on political parties since before the four-decade rule of now slain dictator Moamer Qadhafi drew criticism on Wednesday from Islamists and federalists alike.

The legislation issued by the interim government late on Tuesday, Libya’s first since 1964, bans groups based on religious, regional or tribal platforms and outlaws foreign funding.

“Political parties and associations should not be built on the basis of regional, tribal or religious affiliation,” a member of the National Transitional Council said.

“They cannot be an extension of a political party abroad or receive foreign funding,” said Mustafa Landi, a member of the council’s legal committee.

Political parties must have a minimum of 250 founding members, while associations need only 100, Landi added.

NTC spokesman Mohammed al-Harizi confirmed that the law had been signed into effect, although its text has yet to be published.

The head of the council’s political affairs committee, Fathi Baja, told AFP that the law does not target moderate Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood, but seeks to exclude more radical elements “whose politics exclude others.”

But Nizar Kawan, a leading figure in Libya’s Muslim Brotherood, condemned the law for its exclusion of more radical groups, such as the Salafist movement.

“We would prefer if Salafists and other radical groups were given a chance to participate in this political experience so that they are initiated into democracy and dialogue, which will help them renounce violence,” he said.

The Arab Spring uprisings which swept Libya’s neighbours Egypt and Tunisia early last year saw big gains for Islamist parties in subsequent elections.

In Egypt, not only did the Muslim Brotherhood win nearly half the seats in parliament, the Salafists also took another quarter.

Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood, which already represents a major political force, has said it will not participate directly in elections but will focus instead on social development.

Its members, however, have been urged to create parties.

One of them was elected early March to lead the Justice and Construction Party which advocates a moderate Islam.

Political organisations of any kind were banned for decades under Qadhafi’s iron-fisted rule.

The NTC scrapped legislation outlawing political associations in January.

Dozens of parties have launched since then with the intention of contesting the constituent assembly election that the NTC has pledged to organise by June 19.

The new parties law also conflicts with the ambitions of tribal and civic leaders in the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of the 2011 uprising against Qadhafi, who want a federal system of governance.

Libya was a federal union under King Idris I from 1951 to 1963, which divided the country into three administrative states — Cyrenaica in the east, Tripolitania in the west and the Fezzan in the south.

Abu Bakr Baira, spokesman for the Cyrenaica high council which is lobbying for autonomy for the region, said the law was a direct attack on backers of federalism.

“The law prevents diversity of political parties” and “clashes with the achievements of the Libyan revolution,” said Baira.

“I hope this law will not be applied and that the people of Libya will be free to choose their own destiny,” he added.

Libya’s electoral committee warned on April 11 that the new parties law needed to be adopted quickly if the June election was to go ahead as scheduled.

A full 120 of the constituent assembly’s seats are reserved for independent candidates with political associations able to contest the remaining 80.

Reader Comments (9)

  • Joe
    Apr 26, 2012 - 1:33AM

    It would have been better to pass a law that requires that all political parties simply committed to the democratic system. Thus, Salafis, who believe democracy is un-islamic and would cancel elections if won, could be excluded in a simpler and less controversial way.

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  • waleed
    Apr 26, 2012 - 1:55AM

    I wish this could happen in Pakistan, this is a path of success

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  • Omar
    Apr 26, 2012 - 2:01AM

    What a democracy!!

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  • revo
    Apr 26, 2012 - 3:40AM

    looks like Law is designed by LAW is designed by FRANCE & UK

    Future of Libiya is in Danger

    Rebels will Rise again to resist this Restrictions

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  • Yasir
    Apr 26, 2012 - 3:56AM

    Lets replicate that in Pakistan, if we must.

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  • Blithe
    Apr 26, 2012 - 5:12AM

    So MQM and ANP won’t be able to contest…

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  • shadi
    Apr 26, 2012 - 5:38AM

    That is extremely stupid. If you want true democracy every voice should be heard and people in libyra like pakistan come from different backgrounds and ethnicity. US and UK should stop trying to turn the world into LIBERALS and REPUBLICANS like it is in their country. Doesn’t work that way in the rest of the world uncle Sam, your pushing libya down derailment.

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  • Mo
    Apr 26, 2012 - 5:43AM

    @revo…

    how can you say that. Apparently the law also bans foreign funding and foreign influence. One must not be so blinded by religon that they loose perspective. The law clearly states that moderate religous parties like that of muslim brotherhood are not banned, and lets be clear the US, and Uk dont really like the brotherhood and thats why they had been banned in Egypt for years. Also the law states that parties that distribute people and separate them are banned… Religous parties do that, just look at our own politics… sunni tehreek, and many other religious outfits that discriminate against others and distribute people.

    I think its a perfectly valid, and reasonable law for a fragile democracy.

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  • Awais
    Apr 26, 2012 - 9:11AM

    This is not an attempt to stop islamism. Not at all. Its infact a way to cement it. It will be put in the constitution that the country is islamic, and would thus actually force all parties to comply with that. Its a clever way of actually putting down minorities. Or it could turn into turkey, where while its known unofficially which parties are islamic, its never officially declared.

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