Libyan election commission says has ‘zero’ budget for polls

Emad Al-Sayah, Chairman of Libya's High National Election Commission (HNEC), speaks during a news conference in Tripoli, Libya December 6, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 07 December 2018
0

Libyan election commission says has ‘zero’ budget for polls

  • A 60-member panel drafted the constitution and submitted it to Parliament in August.
  • Al-Sayeh warned the referendum could be delayed if the election commission did not receive security guarantees and funds

TRIPOLI: Libya’s electoral commission has asked the government for $28.7 million, saying that without funding to boost its “zero” budget it cannot make plans to prepare for a vote on a new constitution and later elections.
Western powers and the UN hope Libya will hold a national election by June after a referendum on a constitutional framework to chart a way out of a conflict stemming from the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
A French plan, backed by the United Nations, had initially called for a presidential and parliamentary vote on Dec 10.
But weeks of fighting in the capital Tripoli between competing groups and almost no progress between the North African country’s two rival Parliaments made that impossible.
Now Emad Al-Sayah, chairman of the High National Elections Commission (HNEC), said on Thursday his group was unable to even plan for the constitutional vote due to a lack of funding.
“The budget of the commission is zero, it’s red,” he told reporters. “We have financial commitments of half a million (dinars).”
He said the commission had asked the Tripoli-based government to get 40 million dinars ($28.7 million) to start the process for a constitutional vote. It was not immediately possible to reach the internationally backed government, based in Tripoli, for comment.
Sayah said that from a technical point of view, such a constitutional referendum could have been held as early as February, if a budget had been allocated.
, but said technical equipment and ballot materials still needed to be imported.
So far there is no sign when any vote will be scheduled and details remain opaque.
A draft constitution has been drawn up to be put to a referendum, but it is not clear how that would work ahead of a national conference planned for early 2019 to discuss possible election protocol.
The internationally recognized Parliament, the House of Representatives, last week passed a law billed as first step for the constitutional vote and elections, but the details remain unclear. The UN had previously accused the assembly of obstructing the vote.
Libya has two governments, the UN-backed one in Tripoli and a rival version in the east allied to Khalifa Haftar, whose forces control the east.
Sayah also said better security was needed to conduct polls.
In May, Daesh suicide attackers stormed the commission’s Tripoli headquarters, killing at least 12 of its staff, and setting the building on fire.


Egypt restricts yellow vests sales to avoid copycat protests

Updated 10 min 38 sec ago
0

Egypt restricts yellow vests sales to avoid copycat protests

  • Egypt has virtually banned protests, and the general-turned-president El-Sisi often warns that his tough hand ensuring stability is necessary
  • The yellow vests worn by French protesters have become the symbol of the wave of demonstrations that began in November

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities have quietly introduced restrictions on the sale of yellow reflective vests, fearing opponents might attempt to copy French protesters during next month’s anniversary of the 2011 popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, security officials and retailers said Monday.
They said industrial safety equipment dealers have been instructed not to sell yellow vests to walk-in buyers and to restrict business to wholesale sales to verified companies, but only after securing police permission. They were told offenders would be punished, the officials said without elaborating.
Six retailers in a Cairo downtown area where industrial safety stores are concentrated said they were no longer selling yellow vests. Two declined to sell them, giving no explanation, but the remaining four told The Associated Press they were told not to by police.
“They seem not to want anyone to do what they are doing in France,” said one retailer. “The police came here a few days back and told us to stop selling them. When we asked why, they said they were acting on instructions,” said another. Both spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Security officials said the restrictions would remain in force until the end of January. They said industrial safety product importers and wholesale merchants were summoned to a meeting with senior police officers in Cairo this week and informed of the rules.
The officials, who have first-hand knowledge of the measures, spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media. Repeated calls and messages to the spokesman of the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, to seek comment went unanswered.
The move showcases the depth of the Egyptian government’s concern with security. The past two years, Egyptian authorities clamped down heavily, deploying police and soldiers across the country, to prevent any marches to commemorate the Jan. 25 anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising. Scores were killed and wounded in clashes during the uprising anniversaries in years before that.
The yellow vests worn by French protesters have become the symbol of the wave of demonstrations that began in November against a rise in fuel taxes but mushroomed to include a range of demands, including the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron.
Egyptian media coverage of the unrest has emphasized the ensuing riots, looting and arson in Paris, echoing President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s frequent refrain that street action leads to chaos. He recently outright denounced for the first time the 2011 uprising, saying it plunged the country into economic and political turmoil.
Egypt has virtually banned protests, and the general-turned-president El-Sisi often warns that his tough hand ensuring stability is necessary, pointing to war and destruction in Syria, Yemen and Libya as the alternative. His emphasis on security has taken on added significance amid his ambitious program to reform the economy, which has unleashed steep price hikes, hitting the middle class hard.
Since El-Sisi rose to office in 2014, there have been no significant protests. Still, the government is constantly wary they could return, especially given that the 2011 protests erupted as part of a chain reaction, inspired by Tunisia’s “Arab Spring” uprising.
Rights lawyer Gamal Eid said his Cairo-based Arab Network for Human Rights Information has seen a recent spike in small “social protests,” with the privatization of state-owned enterprises the main issue.
“The government here is talking up its achievements, but it fears a backlash because ordinary people have yet to tangibly benefit from the mega projects underway,” said Eid, who is banned by authorities from traveling while his group’s online site is blocked by the government.
Negad Borai, another rights lawyer, said the government could delay expected price hikes next year “to avoid protests inspired by what’s happening in France.”
El-Sisi led the military’s 2013 ouster of a freely elected but divisive president. He was elected in 2014 and, earlier this year, won a second-term, running virtually unopposed. He has overseen the largest crackdown on critics seen in Egypt in living memory, jailing thousands of Islamists along with pro-democracy activists, reversing freedoms won in the 2011 uprising, silencing critics and placing draconian rules on rights groups.