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Paris plans international conference on Libya's new governmentlessness




Fighting has stopped for a year and a half in Libya (photo: OCHA/Giles Clarke)
Fighting has stopped for a year and a half in Libya (photo: OCHA/Giles Clarke)
LIBYA. At a press conference in New York, on the occasion of the 76th UN General Assembly, Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that "France will organise, around the President of the Republic, an international conference on Libya on 12 November".

Following the example of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and the Moroccan government, the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs still supports the holding of elections scheduled for 24 December 2021, despite the increasingly unfavourable context on the ground.

On Tuesday 21 September 2021 in Tobruk, the Libyan Parliament voted a motion of no confidence (89 votes against out of 113 deputies present) against the transitional government led by Abdel Hamid Dbeibah. Libya is therefore again without a government. The ministers remain in place, but will only be able to deal with current affairs.

This is a failure for Abdel Hamid Dbeibah, who arrived at the head of Libya following a long process, initiated by the UN and based on a Libyan Political Dialogue Forum bringing together all parties. He was endorsed in March 2021 by the same parliament that recently dismissed him. His main task was to unify the country after ten years of civil war. As recent events prove, reconciliation between the two camps in the West and the East is not yet on the agenda.
The Prime Minister is also accused by several MPs of having squandered public money during his six months in power, of favouritism with the appointment of members of his family as diplomats and of corruption.

 

​Electoral law in favour of Marshal Haftar's return

The High State Council (HSC - Senate), sitting in Tripoli like the government, considered this "procedure" of censure as "null and void". "Our objective is to hold these elections. We do not want to give so much importance to anything that can hinder this objective," commented Khaled el-Mechri, president of the HCE on a visit to Rabat.

The HCE had suggested on Monday 20 September 2021 to call Libyans to the polls in late December 2021, but only for legislative elections. The institution intends to postpone by at least one year the presidential election that was to be held simultaneously. For its part, and despite this announcement, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said in a statement that "the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 December 2021 must remain the primary objective.
According to its head and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Libya since January 2021, "not (holding) them could seriously deteriorate the situation in the country, could lead to divisions and conflicts (...) I urge Libyan actors to join forces and ensure inclusive, free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections, which must be considered as an essential step to further stabilise and unite Libya."

A fortnight ago, on Thursday 9 September 2021, an electoral law for the presidential elections was ratified behind closed doors by Aguila Saleh, the head of the Libyan parliament. One of its seventy-seven articles seems tailor-made to favour the return of the former strongman of eastern Libya, Marshal Khalifa Haftar, by granting the right to the military to run for elections. This potential candidate is supported by Egypt. The HCE complained that it was not consulted on the text.
According to the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), more than 2.8 million Libyans are registered to vote, 40% of whom are women.
 

Foreign forces as obstacles to reconciliation

Another meeting on the future of the country is also scheduled for Wednesday 22 September 2021 in New York. It will be co-chaired by Jean-Yves Le Drian and his German and Italian counterparts Heiko Maas and Luigi Di Maio. The French minister called for the "departure of foreign forces and mercenaries", who are still there despite a halt to the fighting at the end of August 2021 and a permanent ceasefire agreement signed in October 2020. According to the UN, there were still 20,000 of them on Libyan soil in December 2020, including several hundred Turkish soldiers present since a bilateral agreement was concluded with the former government. With the elections still to come, the departure of foreign troops will be at the heart of the discussions.

"The international community can contribute to creating more favourable conditions by facilitating the beginning of a gradual withdrawal of foreign elements from Libya without delay," said Ján Kubiš on 10 September 2021,

Read our six-part Libya special report

Frédéric Dubessy


Wednesday, September 22nd 2021



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