Al-Sayeh: GNA Undermines the Elections Commission Because it Fears Elections – Al Marsad

The head of Libya’s High National Elections Commission (HNEC), Emad al-Din al-Sayeh, said that the HNEC’s Law stipulates its independence from the executive authority. In other words, it should be independent of the government, as he put it.

“The GNA’s tendency is to support local elections, not those elections that could topple it.” — Emad al-Din al-Sayeh, National Elections Commission (HNEC)

(Libya, 8 September 2020) – During a telephone interview on the Mawtani program broadcast on Libya’s Channel on Sunday, Emad al-Din al-Sayeh indicated that after 2016, the National Elections Commission (HNEC) was forced to report to the Government of National Accord (GNA). This this meant that decisions on HNEC budgets and recruitments, for example, were made by the GNA, effectively turning the Elections Commission subordinate to the government just as other government departments.

He pointed out that the HNEC is an independent sovereign body that is not subordinate to the executive authority lest it would be subject to the dictates of the government and the executive authority with regard to its functioning. “The recent measures of cutting employees’ salaries applied to the HNEC resulted in the withdrawal and retirement of many of its staff on whom it relies in the electoral process,” stated al-Sayeh.

He added: “With regard to the recruitment process, we have been demanding the government to recruit 70 trained and qualified employees to undertake the next elections, but the government’s intransigence and equating us with other sectors have weakened the HNEC’s capacities. We no longer have enough funds for the daily operating budget of the HNEC, which includes a directorate general and 24 electoral administration offices throughout Libya. In other words, the HNEC’s organizational structure needs funding.”

Al-Sayeh indicated that the GNA, after it assumed the executive power, has been exerting systematic pressure on the HNEC’s budget, adding: “Then, we thought the GNA was trying to stabilize its hazy financial situation, and that is why we gave it an opportunity. However, such behavior has persisted and become systematic. Every year, it deducts from the HNEC’s budget even though it does not represent 40% of what is required to run this sovereign institution.

“In this transitional phase in which Libya is suffering, the HNEC should lead the transitional phase in terms of the constitution referendum or parliamentary and presidential elections. This institution is pivotal and should be prioritized in the budget allocation process and not vice versa. Under the GNA’s decision on transfers last week, the parliament and the State Council have received more than LYD 20 million each. The HNEC’s deficit is only LYD 1,200,0000  but the GNA allocated it only LYD 400,000.

“The GNA’s tendency is to support local elections, not elections that could topple it. Last week, the GNA discussed the budget and the HNEC presented its proposal of LYD 18 million. The HNEC’s role is not only the elections, but also awareness-raising before the electoral process through programs targeting the Libyan voter, the candidate, and the parties,” asserted al-Sayeh.

He noted that the HNEC contacted the Libyan government about financing the budget after the GNA remained idle. The Libyan Prime Minister fulfilled his pledge and funded the HNEC’s 2016/2017 budget. Al-Sayeh stressed that the HNEC has accumulated debts, which impedes it from conducting its daily duties.

“The HNEC needs time to be able to implement the electoral process due to the withdrawn cadres and diminishing capabilities. This will entail searching for new staff and a new structure to implement the process at the minimum level of internationally recognized standards, bearing in mind that the time factor is pivotal in the electoral process.

“We do not have any problems except with the GNA, which the Skhirat Agreement and the Political Agreement obligate it to support the electoral process but it has not fulfilled this. As an institution, the HNEC is still coherent and not divided. We have good relations with all political parties. We have ascertained that the GNA is only slogans. In case of approving the same budget for 2021, we will announce the closure of the HNEC and resort to the House of Representatives (HoR) to consider the HNEC’s fate,” warned the head of the HNEC.

He ruled out that the meetings of the delegations of the HoR and the State Council in Morocco would lead to the conduct of the elections, pointing out that the international community and the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) are not enthusiastic about the elections. They seem to have a different goal from achieving security and political stability through the agreement of the conflicting parties.

Al-Sayed added, “I do not believe that an electoral process will take place in the near future as transpired from meetings with various international actors. The statements of Chancellor Aguila Saleh and the Presidential Council agreed to move to a fourth transitional phase, which will determine the fate of the constitution to move to the stage of permanent stability in which parliamentary and presidential elections will take place. A large percentage of parties propose a referendum on the constitution. But what constitution? The constitution of the Constituent Assembly of Libya is contested and the Chancellor’s statement is clear: forming a committee to review the constitution or creating another draft constitution.”

He also stressed that educating the voter, the candidate, and the partners in the electoral process is pivotal, noting that the stage of preparing the voters and raising them to the required level of perception so that they can distinguish between the voter and the candidate, the good party and the party that presents unclear programs, is among the most important points and stages.

He pointed out that the international support for the HNEC has been continuing since 2012 and has only been interrupted for a certain period between 2015/2016. However, international support cannot be limited to only bringing in experts and advisors explaining that the HNEC is currently establishing a media center as per international standards. The US government and not the GNA supports this project.

Regarding the voting e-card, he commented: “As the electoral process has developed, and due to fraud that plagues some centers, we have taken this measure. However, we cannot control this phenomenon in the absence of observers. The upcoming electoral processes will see a very high turnout and the competition will be intense. Therefore, we wanted to develop the means, including a card bearing the voter’s fingerprint, personal data, and picture. Any voter who does not have that e-card cannot vote,” indicated the head of the HNEC.

Al-Sayeh concluded by stressing the need for political parties to agree on conducting the electoral process because the HNEC alone cannot proceed with the implementation of the political process without consensus between the political parties.

© Al-Marsad English (2020)