By Moutaz Ali and Ashraf Abdul-Wahab.
Tripoli, 24 June 2014:
The former First Deputy President of the General National Congress, lawyer Juma Ateega, . . .[restrict]has claimed that member of Congress are constitutionally barred from standing in tomorrow’s elections to the new House of Representatives.
Speaking on Aljazeera TV last night, he said that under the August 2011 Constitutional Declaration, which for the moment is effectively Libya’s acting constitution, they were not allowed to present themselves as candidates. There could be court cases after the elections, he warned, to disbar any current members of Congress who were elected tomorrow.
A handful of Congress members of former members are standing although there has been a social media campaign to try and persuade voters to reject them.
The majority of members, however, seem to have been fully aware that they would have been courting humiliation by presenting themselves again, such is the general resentment against Congress over its perceived failings.
A small number of those who have been nominated for tomorrow’s poll do appear, however, to have reasonable chances of making it.
Former Zintan Congress members Abdussalam Nassiyah and Mohamed Betru are among them.
Zintan residents say they were fully satisfied with the pairs’ commitment to their constituents while in Congress. “They used to come to Zintan every Friday, updating us of what was going on in the Congress,” Zintan resident Masood told the Libya Herald.
Along with some 20 other members of Congress, the two resigned on 7 February, the date which many in Libya considered its mandate to operate to have ended. In Zintan, that view was widely accepted and both men acted in line with their constituents’ wishes.
“When we asked them to resign, they did so immediately,” said Masood.
They remain popular as a result, he insisted.
Former Nasiriyah Congressman Juma Sayah who is likewise standing for election to the House, points out that he too resigned when asked by his constituents. “I was the first to resign,” he told this newspaper. He was now responding to local demands that he stand again, he insisted.
“The people came to me and asked me to stand again because I had operated in the way they had expected me to do.”
He rejected the idea that Congress members should be prevented from standing again.
“If we try to exclude them, we’ll repeat the mistake of the Political Isolation Law,” he said. “People have a right to stand again. It’s up to the voters to decide. If they want them, they’ll vote for them. If they don’t, they’ll reject them.”
Another departing Congressman hoping to carve a niche for himself in the new House is the well-known Misrata Congressman and head of the Union for Homeland party,Abdurrahman Sewehli. Political observers in Misrata say he is expected to poll well, probably far better than in the 2012 Congressional elections.
“He has a very good chance of being elected again” said one Misrata journalist.
One current GNC member, Hajer El-Gaid, may not fare so well. She is facing a strong resentment at her candidacy in Tripoli. Many local residents say they will not be voting for her again. “I think is better for her to find something else to do and forget about representing us again” local resident Mohamed Baden said. On the other hand, she had the advantage of being known.
Benghazi GNC member Mohamed Busidra, may also have an uphill struggle to get himself into the House. A member of a small Islamic group called “ Tabligh Dawa”, he failed to be elected at the elections for Congress two years ago and only managed to get in when he took the place of Abdelmonem Al-Waheyshi, who resigned after losing in the elections for the presidency of the GNC to Nuri Abu Sahmain.
Benghazi residents say that pro-Islamists in Benghazi will vote for him but their numbers are not thought to be large and in any event many are boycotting the contest.
Other GNC members hoping to continue their political careers in the House of Representatives include Sirte Justice & Construction Party member Amna Faraj Khalifa Emtair, and Obari independent Hussein Al-Ansari. [/restrict]