By Sami Zaptia
Tripoli, 8 May:
Speaking live on Libya Al-Ahrar TV late last night, the head of the High National Election Commission . . .[restrict](www.hnec.ly), Nuri Elabbar, confirmed the announcement that, the HNEC had ‘decided to extend the deadline for the registration of candidates to 15 May’. Elabbar confirmed that 19 June was still the targeted election day.
The HNEC head went on to confirm that over 500,000 Libyans had registered to vote according to the latest figures collected Monday morning. He anticipated that this figure would be higher when the latest figures become available at 10 am this morning, Tuesday 8 May.
When pressed by the programme presenter, Elabbar confirmed that according to the last available 2006 Census and with the necessary projections made to that, the maximum theoretical voters is about 3.4 million people. When challenged to forecast the expected number of Libyans that would actually register to vote, Elabbar said that he expected about 2 million people.
Asked as to why there was such a slow start to registration, Elabbar said that it was mostly, but not totally, due to the slow and low media coverage. Elabbar did not elaborate on the media plan, budget or strategy of the HNEC, nor did he explain to what extent it was culpable for this low and slow media coverage. He also failed to elaborate on what urgent measures he was going to execute in the short period of time available to rectify this.
On the question of the very short periods of registration for both candidates and voters, Elabbar said that the HNEC ‘was tied by pre-imposed time limits. We need a minimum amount of time between the various stages for practicalities such as checking, vetting, printing etc’.
Regarding the vexing issue of Libyan voters abroad, Elabbar felt that organizing elections abroad was a ‘very, very complicated matter’ not easily organized in a few weeks in all overseas countries. It is for this reason, as well as others, that the HNEC decided to organize some key regional centres.
Germany was chosen as the center for the Schengen visa region, England because it is a non-Schengen state and with a large number of Libyans there, and Canada and the US because of the number of Libyans and because Libyans in Canada could not enter the US to vote.
Elabbar went on to clarify that the registration was not being computerized as this would be too time consuming in view of the deadline. Whilst this would not be possible for this election, he explained that the data would be computerized for possible use in time for the next election. [/restrict]