Libya's landmark elections: Women's role lauded

Wednesday, July 11, 2012
An elated voter casts her ballot
[PHOTO: Samia Mahgoub/UNDP]
Tripoli: Millions of Libyans went to the polls Sunday to vote in the country’s first free nationwide elections in nearly five decades, to select representatives to the General National Congress (GNC) which will serve as an interim parliament as they draft a new constitution.

The 200-seat GNC replaces the National Transitional Council, the country's interim legislative body that was established following last year’s revolution.

“We are very encouraged about women’s participation,” said Emad ElSayeh, Deputy Chairman of the High National Electoral Commission, “especially after the impressive turnout that we have witnessed in all precincts across Libya, small and large.”

Approximately 2.8 million people registered to vote in Sunday’s polls, 1.3 million of them women. Some 634 women also competed as candidates.

In the run-up to the historic election, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) worked with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in a nationwide effort to mobilize greater involvement of women in the country’s emerging political scene, starting with the GNC elections - both as candidates and voters.

“I managed to convince a lot of people to join as volunteers to support my campaign, and together we were able to reach a lot of people throughout my district,” said Turkiya AlWaer, a Tripoli Coalition party candidate. AlWaer was among 180 women candidates from across Libya who benefited from electoral campaign management and media training offered by UNDP in collaboration with national authorities, local NGOs and other international organizations.

“We supported the campaigns of women candidates by providing specialized training,” said Eric Overvest, UNDP’s Country Director in Libya. “We also brought in expertise from other countries of women who ran successful political campaigns to help women deal with these important first elections in the new Libya.”

A large public-awareness campaign titled “My Voice for Her” encouraged more women to participate as voters and supported women candidates in their outreach efforts. The awareness campaign witnessed high-level endorsement of women’s political participation from the Prime Minister of Libya, the High National Electoral Commission and the United Nations.

Notably, in a statement following the elections, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated the Libyan people, and expressed his appreciation to the candidates and political entities that contested the election in a peaceful, democratic spirit.

“The United Nations looks forward to working with the new leaders of Libya and the youth, women and men who make up its civil society, as they address the challenges of drafting a constitution and building a secure and accountable state,” Ban added.
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