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Libya will have to postpone the date of the presidential election again

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Thursday, January 6th 2022 à 09:00 | Read 267 times

Libya's High Electoral Commission is at an impasse to publish the list of candidates for the presidential election (photo: HNEC)
Libya's High Electoral Commission is at an impasse to publish the list of candidates for the presidential election (photo: HNEC)
LIBYA. Scheduled for 24 December 2021 then postponed, two days before the poll, by the High National Electoral Commission (HNEC) to 24 January 2022, the Libyan presidential election seems once again compromised.

While the Libyan Parliament did not agree to ratify the new timetable, it is now the Commission in charge of monitoring the elections that is calling for "a new roadmap that is realistic and applicable, by defining stages, instead of setting new dates and making the same mistakes". On Monday 3 January 2022, in front of the Tobruk Parliament, Imad al-Sayeh, director of the HNEC, recognised that the new timetable could not be kept, "as long as the obstacles remain."

This shared realism finally holds water, far from Western chimeras. Even if it only highlights the difficulties of emerging from the period of civil war, more than twenty years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. The path mapped out by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum seems not only paved with bad intentions, but could well lead to a dead end.

Too many candidates

At the centre of the problems explaining the postponement of this election is certainly the security issue and the disagreement between the authorities in the West and the East, but also the insurmountable difficulty of validating the candidacy files. Imad al-Sayeh acknowledged on 3 January 2022 that "the electoral process has stopped at the stage of contestation. We cannot move on to the second stage, that of establishing the final list of candidates." As he explains, "twenty-four hours after the opening of the filing of appeals against decisions to exclude candidates, twenty-six appeals had been filed." It is true that the court was seized, but "it only examined the appeals on the form, not on the substance", underlines Imad al-Sayeh. According to him, the number of candidates should have been "reduced to about twenty", once the contentious cases had been eliminated, as well as the fanciful applications.

As a result, the HNEC was not able to present a list of candidates on the day. Especially as there were about eighty candidates for the post of president and some of the names were controversial to say the least. Just like the electoral law pulled out of the hat of the eastern parliament, without any vote, to allow the candidacy of Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the man who had tried to take over Tripoli by force of arms in 2019.

The attitude of Abdel Hamid Dbeibah, the new interim prime minister of the Government of National Unity (GNU), who is a candidate even though he had said he did not want to run, did not help matters either. Not to mention the aspiration to hold the supreme office of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the second son of the former "Guide", who is still wanted by the International Criminal Court for "crimes against humanity".

The difficulty of finding a political consensus

The pressure exerted by the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany in a joint declaration for "the rapid setting of a date for the elections and the immediate publication of the final list of presidential candidates" is running up against the current reality in Libya.

Organising two new elections - legislative elections are also planned by the end of January 2022 - would mean being able to break through the wall of differences between the various factions and regions of this torn country. In short, to succeed in finding a political consensus.

The temporary government of Abdel Hamid Dbeibah was to be replaced by the new elected authorities on 24 December 2021. For the Tobruk Parliament, it is therefore no longer legally in office. This position was contested by the Prime Minister, who held a meeting on 30 December 2021 and decided to keep his position until his replacement was appointed. The Prime Minister is taking advantage of the legal vacuum in a Libya without a constitution to settle this dispute.

Libyans will still have to wait before going to the polls (photo: HNEC)
Libyans will still have to wait before going to the polls (photo: HNEC)

HNEC accuses the Tobruk Parliament

Stephanie Williams met on Tuesday 4 January 2022 with the President of the Presidential Council, Mohammed al-Menfi, and his two deputies, Abdullah al-Lafi and Moussa al-Koni to discuss the latest political developments. In the previous days, the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Libya was able to meet with representatives of the various political and social forces in the country. In a tweet on Tuesday 4 January 2022, Stephanie Williams mentioned a proposal "to hold the elections in a sequential manner, starting with the legislative elections". Nothing new...

If, in front of the Presidential Council, she insisted on the importance of doubling efforts to advance the electoral process, she could only renew "the commitment of the United Nations to provide all necessary support to the Libyan people and the authorities concerned to achieve these important objectives." This sentence sounds like an admission of impotence.

On the same day in Tobruk the House of Representatives and its Speaker Fawzi al-Nuwairi held an official session. The eighty MPs present were able to hear the director and members of the High Electoral Commission justify the failure to respect the electoral process on 24 December 2021. But also point the finger at the responsibility of the Parliament in this democratic failure. Imad al Sayeh blamed the MPs from the West for having promulgated two laws (one for the presidential and the other for the legislative elections) that did not correspond to those finalised by the Parliamentary Elections Committee and for having refused to take his remarks into account.

The next day, Wednesday 5 January 2022, the Parliamentary Roadmap Committee held discussions with the Presidential Council. At the end of this meeting, both parties indicated that they wanted to "continue communication to reach a common vision for launching the national reconciliation of all Libyans". This clearly shows, however, that if the will is there, the end of the road is far from being reached. The 2.48 million registered voters will still have to wait before they can go to the polls and vote for the first time in the history of the country to elect their president.

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