In less than 40 days, Libya is set to witness the first elections since the ouster of the late Moammar Gahdafi. But are the elections coming too early? Post-conflict elections should mark the pinnacle point in the recovery and reconstruction of Libya. Libyans and the international community look at the election on June 19 as a milestone toward peace and democracy. But some studies show history can paint a gloomy picture of elections held soon after bloody armed struggles, when political institutions may be weak or non-existent. Many believe elections soon after the armed conflict that ended Moammar Gadhafi’s regime would foster the promise of peace and democracy. It would show a democratic transition and effective recontruction, which in turn would assure the international community about the stability of Libya. Elections would also help post-conflict Libya attract much needed foreign assistance and investment to help rebuild the country.
Whether elections prompt consolidation or conflict depends in large part on the timing of these elections and the sequence of the processes involved are right. Skeptics of early elections in Libya argue that voting so soon after the toppling of Gaddafi’s regime would undermine peace and democracy because of the hastily designed or non-existent institutions to facilitate the election process. The preparation for the elections and all its processes have been chaotic, with reports of confusion over the registration process – and even the head of the Higher Elections Commission was recently replaced.
Rushed elections in Libya would also increase the odds that one of the many different factions will reject the results and have the means to return to hostilities. For example, the Barqa Council that represents the region of Cyrenaica is boycotting the elections and is calling for the people in Libya – and particularly in the east – to boycott the elections. The leaders of the Barqa Council are claiming that the National Transitional Council is marginalizing them and the people they represent by going ahead with the allocation of the National Assembly seats to the country’s three regions – 100 for Tripolitania, 60 for Cyrenaica and 40 for Fezzan. The prospects of premature elections in Libya are especially dangerous, as the elections take place while armed regional, tribal, ethnic and ideological sides remain. For these reasons, early elections in Libya might lead back to hostilities, authoritarian regime or being stuck in transition.