By Umar Khan.
Tripoli, March 27: Sitting in an office, almost buried under the heavy load of documents & books about Libyan and . . .[restrict]International law, is Salah Adden Tabagh. He has been tasked with heading the committee to supervise and conduct the first elections for the Tripoli Local Council (TLC).
Tabagh is a lawyer whose firm provides legal assistance to many multi-national companies operating in Libya. I asked him about the progress of the electoral draft and if he thinks that the elections can be held in time.
“Our committee of seven members is working day and night to achieve this but I cannot comment that if it will be held on time or not. We started working on March 12 and in two weeks we have achieved a lot. I think we are on the right track,” he said. When asked if the final law is ready, he said it was in the last stages of being finalized and that he expects it to be “approved within two days.”
I asked about his committee members and he said that “we all represent different areas of the society; there are five men and two women in the committee. We have a judge, an engineer, administrative executives, a lawyer and an audit bureau advisor.
“The main concept is same as of Misrata or we can say it is according to the international norms. But Tripoli is a lot different to any other city in Libya in terms of population and area. We have to work very hard to overcome several issues.”
I asked if there were any changes made to the current structure of the Tripoli local council and he said: “There will be 47 or 48 members in the new TLC. The members will then elect the chairman and the two deputies.”
What is proposed is, in effect, a two-tier system. Voters will elect councillors for their local district council. Tripoli will be divided into 10 districts: Garabulli, Tajoura, Central Tripoli, Hay Al-Andalus, Souk Al-Juma, Abu Saleem, Ain Zara, Janzour, Swani and Qasr Ben Gashir.
Each district will have reserved seats on the TLC based on it population size. For example, Swani will have two seats because it has 60,000 residents whereas Abu Saleem, with 210,000 residents, will have seven TLC seats. Those seven will be drawn from the 11 councillors elected for Abu Saleem district council. They will be given to those who gained the most votes in the polls.
“There will be at least 11 members in each district council and they will elect their own chairman. The number of seats on the TLC for each district will depend on the population of the area. There will be a representative for every 32,000 or 33,000. We are still discussing the final figure. .Out of the elected members for any respective district, the members with the ‘most votes’ will automatically fill in the reserved (according to the population) seats for the particular district in the TLC.”
“One of the several problems we are facing is regarding the actual population of the city. We have a 2006 census and then we have the latest results from the survey done by the transitional government based on the estimated population of the country till 2010.” He pointed to a thick book with the interim government logo on it and entitled “Final Results for the Survey of Demographical Population of Libya.”
According to the latest survey by the interim authorities, the population of Tripoli is 1,455,696. Tabagh said that there would be a polling station for every 3,000 voters, as per the international norms.
“We will start the registration of the voters from April 1 along with the awareness campaign to educate the common man about the importance of their vote.” He also added that “the voter registrations will last for two to three weeks. We are relying on the civil society to step up and take responsibility. It will be done with the help of volunteers from the civil society.”
He added that current members of the TLC or any other government and executive bodies would not be involved in any way with the forthcoming local elections “other than the budget, which, of course will be provided by the NTC.” I asked if he was under any kind of pressure to include a certain clause. “We are under no pressure of any kind, neither from the freedom fighters nor from any other group,” said Tabagh.
When asked about how they are planning to oversee the whole process in different districts, he said “There will be 10 sub committees consisting of five members each to supervise and prepare for the polling in their respective districts.”
The other big issue is about the proof of residency. “It’s known that there are many different types of IDs in Libya,” he said. “We want to use one that everybody has, it is one of the last few things that’s not yet decided.” Tabagh further added that they were seriously considering “using the family books but there are many people who don’t have it and then there are some who have multiple books. It’s not fair if they also vote for any other council while living in Tripoli.”
I asked him about the requirements for the candidates and if there were any financial limits for the campaigns. “There will be basic requirements; the minimum age is set at 21 years while we haven’t decided yet on the educational degree. The candidates will be given four to five days for the campaigning and there will be no financial limit,” he said.
“We are hopeful that we will be able to announce the sub-committees by next Wednesday so that they can begin working immediately. We will make sure that all the members are neutral to ensure free and fair elections.” Regarding observers from NGOs and UN, Tabagh said that his committee is working on the guidelines. “Everybody is welcome to monitor the elections under the guidelines that we are preparing, which will be published along with the approved law,” he explained.
“We don’t want to exclude anybody. I said the same thing in a workshop recently attended by over 200 people from the civil society. We will publish the law once it’s approved and if the people are not happy with it, we will be happy to amend it according to the input we receive,” he concluded.
Umar Khan can be found at twitter.com/umarnkhan