Building Towards Democracy through Elections

November 28, 2012

DSC_0365 On July 7, 2012, Libya’s National Transitional Council supervised democratic elections for a 200 member General National Congress to replace the Council. Creative was on the ground to support Libyan Civil Society Organizations as part of the preparations for this historic election.

Voter Ownership and Increasing Civic Education (VOICE)

In preparation for Libya’s first free election in more than four decades, Creative partnered with Barefoot Workshops to develop video training workshops for four civil society organizations (CSOs). The workshops, which began on June 24th, helped the CSOs develop five Public Service Announcements (PSAs) on topics related to voter education and participation. In addition to being aired on eight Libyan television stations, the PSAs were broadcast through Tripoli’s international media center in the run-up to the election and received considerable circulation through YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Creative and Barefoot trained a total of 13 participants from the organizations, which are based in Misrata (Libyan Organization for Administration and Human Capacity Development), Sabha (Sabha Youth Forum), and Tripoli (Free Generation Movement and Libyan Boy and Girl Scouts). One trainee articulated how the experience helped him convey the process of Libya’s democratic transition with language that everybody could understand: “Step by step, we are trying to build a democracy. Now I can do something to help my country by giving more information to the people.” In addition to the five ads already created, participants are working on an additional seven PSAs related to post-election topics such as volunteerism, civic education, and the rule of law.

Community Driven Grants Program (CDGP)

On June 27, 2012, the program’s Benghazi office sponsored a CSO-led workshop to discuss the realities and challenges of drafting Libya’s new Constitution. Attended by Libyan Constitutional experts, activists, and candidates from the July election, the facilitated discussion addressed the legal parameters of a constitution, the balance between public freedom and state authority, and the demographic and religious implications brought on by Libya’s rich history. One panel member emphasized Sharia’s role in the constitution and the importance of separating Dar Al-Fatwa and the grand Mufti from the state to guarantee their independence.

In preparation for the historic National Assembly election, CDGP grantees in Benghazi and Tripoli played an active role in mobilizing and raising awareness among voters.

The Institute Supporting Women’s Participation in Decision Making Processes (ISWPDMP) conducted electoral awareness campaigns in Benghazi, Derna and Sousa, including voter registration drives and town hall meetings to promote local female candidates. Another Benghazi-based grantee, We Are Here, led a campaign to combat the public stigma against women’s participation in the elections. Six members of the organization served as official election observers on July 7 in order to document the level of participation by women. The Libyan Association for Election Observation (LAEO) conducted a training-of-trainers for 20 election observers from 13 electoral districts. Each of the 20 was tasked with training an additional 40 observers in their communities, for a total of 800 observers. In their election reports, 78.15% of LAEO observers reported no significant incidents of concern. Additional Tripoli-based CSOs, 1Libya, Phoenix, and Hope Charity, likewise conducted awareness raising campaigns as part of their CDGP-supported projects. Their activities included: lectures on civic responsibility, awareness-raising on the election process, and efforts to educate constituents on the candidates, including an open forum for independent and party candidates to present their proposed agendas for the National Assembly.

Woman_Smiling-300x279 The Alleqa organization identified four local partner organizations (two in Tripoli and two in Benghazi) to participate in an election violation reporting network. This network supported a real-time reporting site that used a reporting map and social media to share moment by moment updates throughout Libya. During the election, Alleqa volunteers manned an election reporting command center where they received reports and “hits” on their website of possible incidences, then called local contacts to confirm the incidences before reporting through the Ushahidi website-linked twitter feed. While they did not consider themselves official election observers, they were able to provide breaking reports of a few incidences, verify rumors of violations, and even precede official reports of violations in Sabha, Ajdabiya, and Benghazi. They also obtained the complete database of a local mobile phone service provider, Libyana, and called random numbers to solicit feedback in different areas about the election process and potential violations.

This election was in many ways a pilot effort for Ushahidi in Libya and, while imperfect, showed promise for citizen involvement in electoral processes if given more time to conduct broader public awareness raising on the platform and train a larger network of observers. They plan to achieve this objective in time for the election of the constitutional committee and for the constitutional referendum.

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