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
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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.


Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

The worshippers forced their way into the area ahead of Friday prayer. (Reuters)
Updated 14 min 59 sec ago
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Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

  • The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area

AMMAN: For the first time since 2003, Muslim worshippers broke an Israeli ban and offered Friday prayers in the Bab Al-Rahmeh prayer hall, which is part of the Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hundreds of Palestinian worshippers entered the Bab Al-Rahmeh area inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday for the first time since the area was closed to Muslim worship by Israeli authorities.

The worshippers, led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein and other religious leaders, forced their way into the area ahead of the weekly Friday prayer, defying the Israeli ban.

The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area, which has only been open during the past 16 years to Jewish fanatics during provocative visits to the Muslim holy place, the third holiest site in Islam, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti and now a member of the newly constituted Islamic Waqf Council in Jerusalem, delivered a short sermon in which he reiterated that “the Haram Al-Sharif is all 144 dunums of land, including the mosques, prayer halls, courtyard musuems and schools within it.” Sabri said that Muslims will not allow anyone to diminish Muslim rights in the entire mosque area.

The Friday prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh went off peacefully in part because of an Israeli decision late on Thursday not to make any further escalations, a reliable source in Jerusalem told Arab News.

Khaleel Assali, a member of the new council who participated in the prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh, told Arab News that the mood was peaceful and upbeat. “It was a beautiful thing to be able to reclaim part of our religious site that we were barred from using for so many years.”

The deputy head of the PLO’s Fatah movement, Mahmoud Alloul, praised the unprecedented action by the popular movement in Jerusalem. 

In a statement published on the Wafa website, Alloul called on Palestinians to stay steadfast in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa and Bab Al-Rahmeh and to “continue to stand up to the occupiers and their repeated incursions in Al-Aqsa courtyards.”

Mohammad Ishtieh, a senior Fatah leader who is expected to be the next Palestinian prime minister, issued a statement saying that what happened in Jerusalem today proves beyond a shadow of doubt that all actions and decisions aimed at Judaization of Jerusalem have failed as a result of the steadfastness of our people in our eternal capital. Ishtieh praised the defenders of Jerusalem who screamed for justice and who again forced the Israeli occupiers to back down.

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) and a new member of the Jordanian-appointed Waqf Council, told Arab News that all parties participated and share this success. “Everyone participated and every party should get credit for this success. Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa unite us.”

The popular protests that led to the breakup of the 16-year-old Israeli ban began on Feb. 13 when the newly constituted empowered and expanded 18-member Waqf Council decided to hold a symbolic prayer at the barred Bab Al-Rahmeh site. The Israelis responded by placing heavy chains at the gate and making arrests. 

After four days of arrests, Israel allowed the removal of the chains but would not go as far as allowing Muslim worshippers to enter. On Wednesday the Waqf Council called on worshippers to pray at the Bab Al-Rahmeh site. All five daily prayers were held outside the barred prayer hall. A confrontation was expected Friday, but the insistence of the worshippers on reclaiming their site led to the Israelis backing down, Jerusalem sources told Arab News.