Libyan elections questioned as divisive politics persist

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Political unrest makes crucial elections in Libya that could end years of unrest, division and fighting in just eight days seem increasingly unlikely, although no official postponement has been announced.

Just over a week before the presidential and legislative elections on December 24, the final list of presidential candidates has not yet been released and armed groups took to the streets of the capital on Thursday for a show of force. .

Abu Bakr Marada, a member of the Libyan Election Commission, told media on Thursday that it was now “impossible” to hold the elections on time.

But no delay has been announced, even though electoral rules say candidates must have 14 days to campaign.

Many hoped the elections would end Libya’s last decade of chaos following the uprising against longtime autocrat Muammar Gaddafi by providing political leadership with national legitimacy after years of factional division.

Ninety-eight candidates registered for the presidency, including controversial figures at the heart of Gaddafi’s regime and the fighting that tore Libya apart in the decade that followed.

The judges argued over the disqualification of some top fighters, but appeals were also successful.

Libya is teeming with factions and competing interests.

Even the economy and public finances are fragmented into two entities, with a rivalry between the governor of the central bank in the west and his deputy in the east. Talks between the two men to settle old scores are still in their infancy.

The December elections and previous UN-led peace talks represent yet another attempt to bind the country together.

Officials said the official postponement would likely be decided soon.

“In fact, the issue of postponement is subject to a large number of variables, most of which are directly related to the implementation of the electoral process. These can be political, technical or legal variables. But the current House of Representatives will have the last word in the days to come, ”said Imad Al Sayeh, head of the High Electoral Commission.

In February, an interim unity government was chosen to oversee the elections. The UN-backed administration ended two rival administrations in the east and west. But the powerful militias from the revolutionary and rebel groups who overthrew Gaddafi retain and still exercise enormous influence across the country.

Reconciliation talks in Tunis and Geneva led to the appointment of a three-member presidential council. The new ruling formation follows a ceasefire struck last year.

Abdel Qadir Al Hewili, a senior official at the Council of State Affairs, an advisory body to the interim government, said the elections cannot take place given the growing insecurity and flawed electoral laws that allowed Gaddafi’s son – who was sentenced to death by a Tripoli court in his absence in 2015 for war crimes committed in the failed battle to save his father’s 40-year reign from a NATO-backed uprising – to stand stand for election.

On Thursday, a military official told AFP that militias had “massively deployed around sensitive sites in the capital” after the replacement of the commander of the Tripoli region by the Presidential Council.

“The Home Office can simply ask for the postponement or cancellation of the elections because it cannot guarantee the safety of voters or provide the necessary protection to observers, monitors and election officials. Add to that the controversial candidacy of Saif Al Islam Gaddafi and others like General Khalifa Haftar. [of the eastern Libyan National Army] and the outgoing Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, will give an excellent and solid argument to anyone who challenges the results and we will come back to square one, ”Al Hewili said. The National.

Is federalism the answer?

Dozens of MPs and political party leaders have called for postponing the elections until next year for the same reasons, but they have also pointed to the proliferation of militias who want to set their own conditions and select the candidates as the main one. concern.

The security directorate of the southwestern town of Sabha on Wednesday accused militias of stealing 11 of its vehicles and arresting several police officers sent by the Interior Ministry to provide security. before the elections.

The elections are still seen as a key step in moving Libya away from the civil war that allowed the emergence of ISIS, the intervention of foreign forces from countries like Russia and Turkey, and the country becoming a plaque. turning point of migrant smuggling seeking to reach Europe. across the Mediterranean.

For this reason, some are against any postponement.

On Wednesday, local activists gathered for a demonstration in Algeria Square outside the municipality of Tripoli in the Libyan capital to protest any possible postponement of the elections. They carried signs saying: “yes to national reconciliation and bring out the mercenaries and the international powers”.

UN Special Adviser on Libya Stephanie Williams visited Tripoli on Sunday in an effort to maintain the momentum gained over the past year to hold the elections on time.

The US diplomat was appointed last week when Special Envoy Jan Kubis resigned on November 23 after just 10 months in office. Some saw his departure as a sign of apprehension for the nascent democracy in Libya.

With the rise of political tensions fueled by tribalism, calls for the adoption of federalism, or even for the division of the country into three autonomous regions, were renewed, as in colonial times, when the British and the French occupied Libya in 1943 and divided it into three provinces: Tripolitania to the northwest, Cyrenaica to the east and Fezzan-Ghadames to the southwest.

But Anas El Gomati, director of the Libyan Sadeq Institute think tank, said The National that would not solve the country’s problems.

“Federalism would not resolve the knot of a crisis between two irreconcilable visions of the future state; those who want elections with a constitutional restriction for the Libyan president in a country with a legacy for the authoritarians and those who reject this in favor of a powerful leader to restructure the state and its army as they see fit ”, a- he declared.

Updated: December 16, 2021, 5:34 PM


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