Fears of violence in Libya as UN struggles to manage postponement of elections | Libya

The United Nations is scrambling to manage the postponement of the Libyan presidential elections, due to take place on December 24, amid growing fears that an impending political vacuum could lead to renewed violence and economic chaos.

There has been no official postponement announcement, but all parties agree that the vote cannot take place, not least because a list of approved candidates has not yet been released.

Meanwhile, tensions are mounting over whether the interim government of national unity can remain in place after its official mandate expires on the 24th. Roadblocks and armed vehicles have started to appear in parts of the country. capital, Tripoli, and four major oil fields have been closed due to their occupation by militias.

Fadel Lamen, one of the main presidential candidates, said the position was very fluid and dangerous. “Some of us are trying to crystallize a new roadmap,” Lamen said. “There are different scenarios: a very short deferral, just a date shift to clarify outstanding legal issues, such as a candidate’s qualifications, or a longer six-month deadline, but once you opt for a such a long delay, anything can happen. “

Stephanie Williams, the UN special adviser on Libya, has been carrying out urgent consultations in the country with the aim of reaching agreement on how he can maintain some semblance of momentum towards democracy.

A dispute between two Libyan bodies over responsibility for the delay resulted in the postponement of the announcement of the delay.

The High National Electoral Commission (HNEC), the technical body overseeing the elections, said it was up to the Libyan parliament, the House of Representatives, to make the announcement, but the chamber refused to meet at least until after the polling day, when he announces his plans on how to proceed. Some members of the House have called for the installation of a new government, saying the mandate of the interim government, formed in February to lead the country to elections, has expired.

Although Europe and the United States have been set on December 24 for the presidential and legislative elections for more than a year, no Libyan consensus on the legal framework for the elections, including the criteria for qualifying candidates, has never been achieved.

The NHEC has delivered to the House of Representatives its still unpublished report on the eligibility of some of the candidates for the candidacy. Question marks have existed over three of the most prominent candidates: the renegade General Khalifa Haftar, head of the so-called Libyan National Army, which controls the east of the country and parts of the south; Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi; and Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, the interim prime minister, who has pledged not to run for president.

US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland has acknowledged that there are political and legal obstacles to holding the elections and that new proposals, none of them ideal, are being discussed.

He also made it clear to Dbeibah that he should not use the post of interim prime minister as a basis for campaigning for the presidency.

Lamen said: “There is a consensus that this corrupt government must go. But it is not clear who is empowered to form a new interim government.

Williams was the UN special envoy to Libya from March 2020 to January 2021, then handed an election roadmap to his successor Ján Kubiš, but resigned in November after his disastrous non-intervention approach gave the existing Libyan political class an opening to slow progress towards the elections.

None of the substantive issues regarding the conditions for holding an election have been fully resolved, including an agreed legal framework for organizing them, the constitutional checks and balances of a ruling president, and the eligibility criteria. for the selection of candidates.

As a result, it has become increasingly likely that elections, without any consensus on their basis, will lead to a contested outcome. That could be disastrous, given the powder keg conditions in Libya, an oil-rich country plagued by a decade of violence since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Williams returned to work on December 12, since then she has privately urged various parties to relaunch the road to the election with a new schedule.

His task will be to find new ways to reapply pressure on the existing political bodies in Libya that have traditionally acted as saboteurs, and to persuade them to agree on a new timetable and a new basis for the elections.

She had previously tried to circumvent the barrier of the existing political class by appointing a 75-member Libyan political dialogue forum, but the credibility of this body collapsed soon after her departure.

About Ethel Partin

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