More Links in News & Events

The Carter Center Finds Libya's Tabulation Process Credible

Contacts: In Atlanta, Deborah Hakes +1 404-420-5124; in Tripoli, Alexander Bick +218 91-998-3049 or


Executive Summary
The Carter Center welcomes the announcement of preliminary election results by Libya's High National Elections Commission (HNEC) on July 17, 2012, and congratulates HNEC staff for their diligence in completing the tabulation process in a timely manner and for their efforts to ensure that all voters had an opportunity to participate in the elections. While improvements could be made, the tabulation process for the July 7 General National Congress elections was conducted in a credible manner and was adequate to determine the results of the election accurately.

Disruptions to the electoral process negatively affected polling in a number of locations. In response to attacks on polling materials and centers in the east, the HNEC made a number of decisions on and after election day that impacted opening times, polling dates, and polling center locations. Although these measures were devised to increase participation and ensure voter security, they were contrary to the election law and may have caused confusion among voters due to their late implementation. In future elections, the Center encourages the HNEC to develop a detailed emergency operations plan in advance and to inform polling staff and voters in a timely manner.

It was apparent to Carter Center observers that HNEC staff sought to conduct counting, recounting, and tabulation transparently and in accordance with the election law. Their efforts should be commended. Several aspects of the process could be improved though to ensure compliance with international and national standards and allow for the smooth conduct of tabulation in future elections:

  • To increase transparency, counting and recounting should always be done in the district where voting took place so that polling staff, observers, and political entity and candidates' agents can be present.
  • To ensure accountability, polling staff should be required to sign results forms to indicate their agreement to any corrections made by auditors. Means to make this feasible should be examined.
  • To ensure accuracy, more robust quarantine triggers should be included to detect inconsistencies or anomalies in results and reconciliation forms.

The Carter Center conducted a limited election observation mission in Libya at the invitation of the HNEC and has been welcomed by the National Transitional Council and representatives of political entities and civil society. Following election day, Carter Center observers met with elections officials, political entities, candidates, and other stakeholders in 12 cities: Ajdabiya, Awbari, Al Aziziya, Al Bayda, Benghazi, Khoms, Misrata, Sebha, Tripoli, Tobruk, Az Zawiya, and Zuwara. Observers also monitored the tabulation process at the National Tally Center at the HNEC headquarters and the HNEC warehouse at Mitiga airport, both in Tripoli. Their observation was supported by a core team of elections and legal experts based in Tripoli.

The Center is impartial and conducts its activities in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, adopted at the United Nations in 2005.

Delayed Openings and Voting after Election Day
Despite a peaceful atmosphere in much of the country, cities in the east of Libya suffered a series of violent attacks against polling centers and election materials during the immediate elections period that had a significant impact on polling. While the HNEC and polling staff should be congratulated for their quick response to these incidents, and in particular for their commitment to ensuring that all voters in affected areas were able to participate in the elections, the future electoral management body should consider the introduction of measures to handle potential disruptions to the polling process and should develop a detailed emergency operational plan.

Polling stations in Ajdabiya, Benghazi, Brega, and Gemenes opened late on election day. Five polling centers in Sidra opened only on the following day, July 8, and three polling centers in Kufra and Ribiana opened only on July 10. The election law states that "polling shall last for one day, from eight o'clock in the morning until eight o'clock in the evening."[1] It does not specify that voting can take place only on election day; however, it states that voting may only take place between the specified hours.

Decisions to delay voting in some locations was made on an ad hoc basis late in the process. Measures to address potential disruptions to the polling process should have been established earlier and communicated clearly so that all stakeholders could prepare themselves. The absence of sufficient public information about the opening of polling stations, voting that continued into the night, and delayed voting in some locations may have interfered with voters' ability to participate in the elections.

In addition, for security reasons as many as 100 polling stations in Ajdabiya, Benghazi, and Sirte districts were consolidated so that polling for multiple stations was conducted within a single location, in some cases with a single ballot box serving multiple stations. This was done without appropriate legal and administrative measures, making reconciliation impossible at some polling stations and delaying the tally process.

Finally, on the afternoon of election day, a decision was made by electoral officials in Benghazi to allow registered voters from three polling centers to vote in any polling center in the district.[2] Legally, this decision is contrary to electoral regulations that state that voters are only allowed to vote in the center where they have registered, and that polling staff should not allow anyone whose name is not on the voters' list to vote.[3] The Center acknowledges the extenuating circumstances under which this action was taken.

While exceptional, these decisions could have been avoided if the HNEC had adopted an emergency operational plan in advance, rather than taking decisions on a case-by-case basis. In future elections, an emergency operational plan should be developed and widely disseminated to HNEC district offices and polling staff prior to election day.

The Tabulation Process
Tabulating results represents a critical part of the electoral process, requiring extensive efforts to ensure accuracy, minimize any opportunities for fraud, and guarantee that election results represent the free expression of the will of the voters.[4] To ensure public confidence, tabulation procedures should follow five fundamental principles: transparency, security, accuracy, timeliness, and accountability.

The Carter Center congratulates HNEC staff for their diligence in completing the tabulation process in a timely manner. Despite some barriers to transparency and a lack of strong measures to identify anomalous results, the tabulation process for the July 7, 2012, General National Congress elections was conducted in a credible manner and was adequate to determine the results of the election accurately.

The tabulation procedures were released by the HNEC on June 30, 2012. The procedures outline the manner in which copies of the results forms should be posted at the polling station and the originals transferred in tamper-evident envelopes to the National Tally Center. They include provisions for a double-blind data entry system to ensure accuracy and an audit committee to review results forms containing clerical or other errors. In the case that the audit committee cannot resolve an error, results forms are referred to the HNEC board of commissioners to authorize a recount. The regulations do not reveal the process for electronic aggregation of the results.

Carter Center observers noted that HNEC officials at the tally center sought to be transparent and were very welcoming to observers and agents of political entities and candidates. However, the computerized aggregation of results and the layout of the tally center did not permit comprehensive observation of the tally process. In future elections, observation of the aggregation process should be facilitated, for instance by posting results forms as they are entered in the database or by projecting results forms on a screen that is easily visible to observers and political entities and candidates' agents.

Recounting is an inevitable process in most elections and requires clear procedures to ensure accuracy and transparency. Carter Center observers monitored recounts, or the re-opening of ballot boxes to extract results forms that had been mistakenly sealed in the ballot boxes, in five cities: Al Bayda, Benghazi, Misrata, Tobruk, and Tripoli. In all but one case, recounts were triggered by missing or incomplete forms or auditors being unable to make sense of the figures on the results forms.[5]

In most cases, HNEC officials actively requested the presence of observers in order to ensure the transparency of recounts. In all observed cases the recounts were conducted in a professional manner with training or polling staff showing a strong commitment to accuracy. Carter Center observers did not report any cases of intentional manipulation of results.

The Carter Center notes three issues that could be addressed in future elections:

First, according to the election law and regulations, both counting and recounting should take place in the district where voting took place. This ensures the transparency of the process by allowing polling staff, observers, and political entity and candidates' agents to be present. While recognizing serious security concerns, the decision to count and recount ballots from Kufra in Tripoli is inconsistent with the law and violates the principle of transparency.

Second, if a mistake is made by a member of the polling staff, he or she should be present to append their signature in agreement with the correction. Failure to observe this procedure jeopardizes the principle of accountability. Nevertheless, on several occasions auditors at the tally center appeared to correct calculations or typographical mistakes without the knowledge of polling staff. Means for polling staff to be included in the process should be examined, including decentralization of the tabulation process.

Third, triggers for quarantining questionable results were extremely limited. According to HNEC officials, the database was programmed to quarantine results forms in which the data was inconsistent, the number of votes received by candidates exceeded the number of votes cast, or turnout was greater than 100 percent of registered voters. In the future, the HNEC should consider employing additional and more stringent quarantine triggers, for instance, to detect over 95 percent votes for a one candidate; extremely high turnout in a particular polling station; or discrepancies in the reconciliation of used, unused, spoiled, and cancelled ballots with final vote totals.

The HNEC should be praised for the way it handled delays in the tabulation process by reassuring candidates and voters, holding frequent press conferences, and announcing partial results. These measures helped to increase transparency, reduce potential distrust of the tabulation process, and reassure voters that the process was not subject to undue delays.

Complaints and Appeals

Effective, clear, and fair procedures for electoral dispute resolution are an essential part of a well functioning electoral process.[6] Voters and other electoral stakeholders must be given, and must perceive that they possess, a voice in the quality of the electoral process if the process is to retain credibility. The HNEC detailed the mechanism for filing complaints during the electoral process in a decree issued on June 27, 2012.[7]

Carter Center observers report that several dozen complaints relating to election day were filed at the district level. Nearly all of these complaints relate to administrative or procedural issues at the polling station level. While awaiting timely resolution of each complaint, the Center notes than none appear to undermine the integrity of the process as a whole.

Complaints related to the results of the election must be filed within 48 hours of the announcement of preliminary final results. The courts then have five days to reach a decision. An appeal can be submitted within 48 hours of the court's decision, and the court then has five days to rule on the appeal. In total, the complaints process should last no longer than 14 days. The Carter Center will continue to monitor the electoral complaints process and will include its findings in its final report.

About the Carter Center's Limited Election Observation Mission in Libya

Following an invitation from the HNEC, The Carter Center deployed a limited international election observation mission to Libya to monitor and report on the July 7, 2012, General National Congress elections. The mission accredited 45 observers, including five teams of medium-term observers and 16 teams of short-term observers, supported by a core team of elections and legal experts based in Tripoli. Observers came from 21 countries and visited 12 of Libya's 13 electoral districts over the course of their observations.

In light of security considerations, which prevents deployment of observers in some areas of the country and which restricts their movements in others, the Center's mission is limited in nature and does not offer a comprehensive assessment of the electoral process. However, the Center shares its observers' findings and analysis with the HNEC and the public in a spirit of cooperation to enhance the quality of future elections.

The Center's assessment of the electoral process is made against the interim constitutional declaration, Libya's election laws and regulations, and the country's international commitments regarding democratic elections and political participation. The Center is nonpartisan and conducts its activities in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, adopted at the United Nations in 2005.

The Carter Center released a preliminary statement of its findings on July 9 and plans to release a comprehensive final report on the 2012 General National Congress elections within the next several months. The Center's public statements are all available on its website,


"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Center has observed more than 90 elections in 36 countries. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

[1] Law no. 4, article 27.

[2] These were Tolatala, Eshblya, and El Hadba Schools.

[3] Article 7 and article 14 (3) of Decree no. 67.

[4] U.N., ICCPR, Article 25(b).

[5] In Misrata, ballots from one polling center were recounted following a complaint from an independent candidate. This recount found that the candidate had wrongly been assigned zero, rather than 97 votes.

[6] ICCPR, Art. 2(3), "Each State Party to the present covenant undertakes: (a) to ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms are herein recognized as violated shall have an effective remedy, not withstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity; (b) to ensure that any person claiming such a remedy shall have his right thereto determined by competent judicial, administrative or legislative authorities, or by any other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State, and to develop the possibilities of judicial remedy; (c) to ensure that the competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when granted."

[7] HNEC decree number 93 for 2012 concerning regulations for elections dispute resolutions.

Donate Now

Sign Up For Email

Please sign up below for important news about the work of The Carter Center and special event invitations.

Please leave this field empty
Now, we invite you to Get Involved
Back To Top