Libyans turn out to vote in landmark elections, women’s role lauded

10 Jul 2012

image An elated voter, one of 1.3 million women registered to vote in Sunday's polls, casts her ballot. (Photo: Samia Mahgoub / UNDP)


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 1 80 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.

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,” Mr Ban added.

Highlights and facts:

  • Approximately 2.8 million people of an estimated 3.5 million potential voters registered to vote in the General National Congress elections.  1.3 million of registered voters were women;
  • More than 2,600 people ran as individual candidates and more than 1,200 ran as party candidates on 376 lists representing 130 registered political entities;
  • This brings the competition to approximately 20 candidates per seat for the 200 National Congress seats;
  • 634 women candidates participated in the GNC elections - 545 of the candidates representing political entities were women (44 percent), whereas women comprised only 3 percent of the individual candidates (89 candidates);
  • Women were well-represented in polling staff, local observer teams and accredited media covering the elections;
  • UNDP has supported the procurement of 8,900 polling kits, 25,000 voting booths, 15,000 bottles of indelible ink, 15,000 ballot boxes, and more than 8 million ballots for both proportional representation and majoritarian races.
  • Statement Attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General: Elections in Libya