With Libya’s historic parliamentary elections just days away, the streets of the capital Tripoli have been plastered with campaign posters. Yet walking around, a trend becomes apparent – many of those featuring female candidates have been destroyed while those of men are left largely untouched. Our Observer in Tripoli says that the vandalism may be a sign that many in Libya are simply not ready to see a woman in office.
Around 2.7 million Libyans are eligible to vote in Saturday’s parliamentary poll – the first free election the country has seen in decades. According to Ian Martin, head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), there are more than 600 women candidates on the ballot.
Photos taken by our Observer, Ghida Touati, in Tripoli. 

"Seeing campaign posters in public is something very new for many Libyans"

Ghida Touati is a blogger based in Tripoli. She is also a part of FRANCE 24’s Observers and RFI’s Media Workshop’s joint special election project, which sends teams out to different locations throughout the Libyan capital.
It’s impossible to walk on Tripoli’s streets without noticing that the female candidates’ campaign posters have been vandalised. What’s more, it’s a phenomenon that’s not unique to the capital. Another blogger, Ayman al-Mazini, has noticed a similar trend in Benghazi.
It’s not a question of just ripping the posters down. Some of the candidates’ faces have been scribbled over with black ink, making it difficult to discern their features. In one of Tripoli’s main streets, someone’s used the campaign slogan of a male candidate to cover up the head of a female politician. Libyan media have largely ignored the issue and appear completely uninterested in uncovering who is behind it all.
"For many Libyans, it’s unfathomable that a woman might actually become a member of parliament"
It’s very likely the Islamic extremists are responsible, because they feel that a woman’s photo is strictly her husband’s property. It could also be men who come from a very macho culture – for many Libyans, it’s unfathomable that a woman might actually become a member of parliament. Otherwise, it might just be some thugs, or merely someone who has a personal score to settle with the targeted candidates.
I did a Facebook survey on the question. Several people responded that for them, seeing campaign posters in public and the concept of female candidates was still very new to them, and seemed very removed from their own culture. Others jumped immediately to the conclusion that Islamic extremists were responsible for the vandalism, because many of them see the elections as an export from the West.
"There are even women who are reluctant to support for female candidates"
Libya’s 1963 Constitution [which served as the country’s last Constitution before Muammar Gaddafi seized power in 1969, destroying the monarchy and declaring the country a Republic] guarantees women the right to run for parliament. Today, however, there are even women who are reluctant to support female candidates. One voter told me that she wasn’t going to vote for a woman because she felt as though female politicians in the transitional government had discredited themselves because they were ultimately unqualified.