Libya’s Constitution Assembly: A Nation Divided

On the three-year anniversary of Benghazi’s freedom, after Mahdi Mohammed Zio sacrificed his life to break into Gadhafi’s last stronghold in the city, citizens from all over Libya gathered in polling stations to cast their vote for the Constitution Assembly.

Actually, that’s not right; a few Libyans in some cities cast their vote. For the residents of Derna, participating in the elections was a matter of life or death, as armed terrorist groups attacked various polling stations in the city.

In the Southern towns of Murzuq and Kufra, ballot boxes were prevented from reaching the polling stations by members of the Tebu tribe who were boycotting the elections, because they felt they weren’t being represented fairly.

And speaking of boycotting, the Amazigh of Libya also boycotted the election, because they demand that their language Tamazight be recognized as Libya’s second official language along with Arabic.

Besides all the, lets call them “technical” difficulties, many people just didn’t care to participate in this election. In contrast to the high turnouts in the local and national elections in Benghazi, this election saw a very small number of participants. The registration period was extended several times, but only a fraction of eligible voters actually registered.

Even people who were initially excited to vote had changed their minds by the time the day rolled around. Peer pressure is a very potent motivator in Libyan social circles, and it’s easy to succumb to the cynicism and negativity that swamp Libyan social media pages these days.

To put it bluntly, Libyans no longer trust the voting process. They view the failure of the GNC as a direct result of their vote. Why bother electing anyone if they’ll just end up being another lying politicians who put their own interests and/or ideologies before that of the country?

Another issue directly related to this election is the demand of many citizens for the return of Libya’s 1951 constitution, which was drafted after Libya gained independence from Italian occupation. It’s been rejected since it was drafted for a monarchy with many outdated references. However, it’s supporters say that it only required a few adjustments and amendments, and it’s role in Libya’s history makes it important enough to use.

There’s also the objection of having a constitution drafted by people chosen through a majority election. It is after all a specialized job, and not just anyone can do it. It was electing incompetent, unqualified people that gave us the hated GNC in the first place.

Overall, 497,663 Libyans voted, which is 45% of the registered voters. This is from a country with approx. 3.6 million eligible voters. Not a very promising turn out.

And yet those half a million that did show up count for something. They represent the people who still have faith in the democratic process, and considering everything Libya has been through these past three years, that’s an impressive number.

In my household, half of my family registered and voted. The other half chose not to. There was no arguing or heated debates about it. Each did what they felt was right for the country. I had considered voting but decided to opt out after I couldn’t find the right candidate to vote for.

It was only in those last few hours before the voting stations closed that I did some final research and decided to vote. There was a security guard in front of the school, and everything was well organized. I cast my vote without any of the previous feelings of pride and patriotism, but more as a sense of obligation. I want Libya to become a free, democratic nation, and despite the problems and pitfalls, this is, in my opinion, the best way forward.

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