Delay to Libya's presidential election a serious setback to peace process

Libya Mahmud Turkia AFPFile
DEC 23, 2021 LISTEN
Mahmud Turkia AFP/File

Libya's parliament has confirmed this Friday's first presidential election will not go ahead as planned, leaving the peace process in disarray.

Intended to mark a mark a new beginning for Libya more than a decade after a 2011 revolt toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the news leaves and the fate of Libya's interim government in doubt.

The electoral commission proposed pushing back the voting date by a month, saying holding it as scheduled would be "impossible" amid disputes over the rules, including the eligibility of several divisive candidates.

Seif al-Islam Kadhafi, a son of Moamer, and eastern military chief Khalifa Haftar were both in the running despite accusations of war crimes.

Interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah's candidacy also sparked controversy as he had pledged not to run as part of his original leadership bid.

Strong demand for polls

An alternative date has not yet been put forward for the elections, which had been intended to go hand-in-hand with parliamentary polls as part of a United Nations-led peace process. 

Large numbers of Libyans had already registered for voting cards in what politicians on all sides in Libya said indicated strong popular demand for a vote. 

But speculation of a delay to the polls had been mounting for weeks amid corruption allegations and the resignation of special envoy Jan Kubis just weeks ago.

There was never agreement on the constitutional basis for the election, nor the rules among the fragmented political institutions.

"Every single faction in Libya has an issue with one of these three candidates," said Claudia Gazzini, a Libya expert at the International Crisis Group.

"So they tried to stop these candidates from running using legal means, but failing that there seems to have been an informal agreement between some factions not to let the elections go forward," she told AFP.

Libya's main eastern and western camps have maintained a ceasefire since last year. 

The collapse of the electoral process risks aggravating local disputes and triggering a new round of fighting.

This is exacerbated by the fact the country is controlled by an armed groups including thousands of foreign mercenaries.

(with Wires)

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