Madam President? Interview with Libya presidential candidate Ms Laila Salim bin Khalifa

By Vanessa Tomassini.

Libya’s next head of state could be a woman. France 24 has already included her in the shortlist of the most prominent candidates in the next presidential elections. “I’m Laila Salim bin Khalifa – she tells us about herself, talking about her Amazigh origins in the city of Zuwara- president of the National Movement Party, a political party inspired by the 1940s Bashir El Saadawi movement. My academic specialization is business administration, I have a master’s degree in Business Administration and I am currently pursuing a PhD”.

You are the first woman to candidate for Libya presidency. What does this moment signify for you?

“I consider my candidacy for Libya presidency as an historic moment. It is a kind of change to the existing criteria, since the presidency is only for men. Then it’s a change even in the culture of Libyan society in accepting women’s candidacy for the presidential elections.”

What made you want to get involved in politics?

“The desire to implement the project that I aspire to for the state of Libya. I hope that I will have the opportunity to make this change in Libyan policy on the security and economic levels and on the level of international relations.”

What are some challenges you face as a woman in politics?

“There is no difference in the political challenges facing me as a woman from the challenges facing men. The biggest challenge is only in the culture of some believing that senior positions are only for men. This societal culture is the biggest but for me there are not so many challenges.”

What’s the conditions of Libyan women today?

“The conditions of Libyan women are no different from any other society. But I think the unstable conditions in the country have affected the women a lot. Even the conflicts that occur in the country, I think, are mainly caused by men. Women tend more towards peace and stopping wars.”

If you want to give advice to girls and women in Libya and the Arab world who want to pursue a career in politics or elections, what would it be?

“The first advice I give to all women is to have confidence in themselves and participate. Everyone is equal, and there is no difference. We just have to trust in ourselves and our capacities.”

What’s your vision for Libya?

“My vision for Libya is to be an independent, stable, sovereign and institutional state. The focus is on having a basis for democracy and a peaceful exchange of power like any other country.”

Have you begun the ministers’ recruitment for your government in case you will be elected?

“I think that the issue of choosing ministers is a very early matter. First, the prime minister will be chosen, and then he or she will announce his government. We will certainly have a role in that, but there is still time to talk about it, and no promises can be made to anyone.”

Are there specific strategies you have in mind to recruit more women for the next executive?

“I fought a lot for the presence of women by giving a quota of 30% to women.  I think this is the best strategy to get more females participating in politics.”

Did you receive support from any foreign country?

“I have not received and I will not accept any foreign support. Foreign support should be forthe State of Libya. These elections are direct and I hope only for the support of the Libyan people.

With who you have in mind to coalize if needed to pass the second round?

“It is still too early to talk about alliances in these elections. In the second round, we will look for someone who has a real project on the ground.”

Do you have specific strategies to dismantle armed groups out of the State’s control and reintegrate those youth in the Libyan society?

“Certainly, one of the most important files is the file of armed formations and the need to integrate them into the military and security institutions of the State. It is necessary to work well in the security and economic file, because they related. There must be a good coordination in order for the security and civil institutions to function well.”

This interview originally appeared on the Italian “Strumenti Politici”.