On 3 October the House of Representatives (House) announced that it had passed a law to govern the parliamentary elections which were originally expected to take place simultaneously alongside presidential elections on 24 December. The full text was not made public, but House spokesman Abdullah Belhaiq said that the law was unilaterally passed by the 75 MPs who were present. It should be noted, however, that this was not a legal quorum. He claimed that its provisions were based on existing statutes but that they have now been modified in one critical respect: Libyans will now vote for individual candidates rather than political party lists. He added that, with the passage of this law, the parliament has now completed the necessary legal framework which will enable the elections to proceed. 

House of Represenatatives’ spokesman Abdullah Belhaiq

Law No. 2/2021 of 3 October prescribes that 200 MPs will represent the same constituencies as in 2014 and that the electorate should vote for individuals on a non-transferable basis rather than for political parties and/or a list system. Candidates must not hold another nationality unless permitted to do so, which could enable Khalifa Haftar to stand. Article 18 prescribes that that 16% of the seats are reserved for women. Local and international observers will monitor the electoral process and the House said that the government must provide the necessary security to guarantee voters’ ability to take part. It also said that that the next parliament should review the current 200 constituencies to ensure ‘fairer constituencies.’

Article 20 of the House’s new law prescribes that parliamentary elections will be held on 23 January which is 30 days after the presidential election is held on 24 December 2021. This was confirmed by Belhaiq who said that the delay was because the presidential poll was the priority. He noted that, ‘In recent years the country has not been able to stabilise itself through the parliamentary system’, and that, as such, ‘it was necessary to organise the presidential elections as soon as possible’. Staggering the two elections rather than holding them simultaneously will give candidates and elections officials more time to prepare. Alternatively, however, it could reflect a political calculation: with an extra month in office, current MPs may be able to find new mechanisms to retain power.

The House’s new law — particularly the fact that voters are not electing political parties or lists — is clearly designed to favour eastern Libya at the expense of the west which has large and well organised parties. The fact that the next parliament will probably alter the constituencies is also presumably designed as a way to give more seats to the east and south at the expense of the much more densely populated west. It is therefore unsurprising that there is fierce opposition from the west this second major electoral law that has been unilaterally passed by a minority of MPs from the eastern-dominated House in the past month. 

This excerpt is taken from Libya Politics & Security, our weekly intelligence report on Libya. Click here to receive a free sample copy.