Libya’s proactive local leaders
The Atlantic Council have recently published an article by Karim Mezran and Frank Talbot on the role Libya’s local leaders in the current national crisis. In the wake of a stalling national political process the authors explore the productive action taken at the local level by municipal councils and mayors to provide not only basic needs and services to their communities, but governance at levels above their own communities. Merzan and Talbot detail attempts in the last twelve months by local actors to find common cause through multiple meetings and their willingness to call national actors to account. On this point the authors argue:
Libyan national actors would be ill-advised to not prioritize the increasing demands for local governance. Libyans perceive municipal councils as the most legitimate representatives of local communities, according to a 2016 survey done by the International Republican Institute (IRI). As mayors and municipal leaders meet, the common thread of demands includes the need for more decentralization through the implementation of Law 59 as well as municipal budgets that are sufficient to ensure public service delivery. Pragmatic solutions to local needs undoubtedly will proliferate and potentially be replicated as mayors and municipal councils continue to speak with each other. It also provides the opportunity for these municipal actors to emphasize local needs and priorities in a unified voice that is more influential among Libya’s national actors.
According to the same IRI study, the legitimacy of municipal councils is rooted in the perception that the councils were democratically elected. This detail is important considering that the mandates for municipal councils will start to expire this spring. The last elections for municipal councils occurred in 2014 and little attention has been given to reconducting local elections due to the larger, more publicized preparations for national elections. While some may advocate simply extending municipal council mandates as the solution, it should not be forgotten how extending mandates of other elected Libyan institutions negatively impacted the perceived legitimacy of these institutions. Therefore, holding local elections rather than extending their mandates is needed to preserve the local sense of legitimacy and continue local municipalities’ effectiveness. Municipal councils should use their voices to emphasize the importance of another set of elections.
Click here to read the article in full.