Libya officials call for constitution before 2021 elections

While the proposed election date is welcome “we must focus on the constitution”, said Bachir al-Haouch, a member of the High Council of State, the equivalent of Libya’s senate.

Sunday 15/11/2020
Member of the Libyan High Council of State, Bachir El Haouch (L), and member of the founding committee of the Libyan constitution, Abdelmonem El Sherif, hold a press conference in Tunis, on November 14, 2020. (AFP)
Member of the Libyan High Council of State, Bachir El Haouch (L), and member of the founding committee of the Libyan constitution, Abdelmonem El Sherif, hold a press conference in Tunis, on November 14, 2020. (AFP)

TUNIS--Elected Libyan officials called on Saturday for a constitution to be approved before national elections are held, without challenging the date of the polls which were announced a day earlier.

Libyan rival factions at UN-led talks in Tunis had agreed Friday to hold national elections on December 24, 2021, the United Nations said, raising hopes for an end to a brutal decade-old conflict.

Their decision came on the fifth day of political talks in Tunisia, involving 75 delegates from existing state bodies and groups from across Libya’s political and social spectrum.

But while the proposed election date is welcome “we must focus on the constitution”, said Bachir al-Haouch, a member of the High Council of State, the equivalent of Libya’s senate.

“A year gives us the time to put the constitution before the Libyan people, for them to approve or reject,” he told reporters.

Libya’s current provisional constitution dates to 2011.

“Dialogue that does not lead to a constitutional referendum cannot respond to the expectations of the majority of Libyans,” said Abdelmonem al-Sherif, member of the body responsible for drafting the new constitution.

“The United Nations mission and international parties do not have the right to reject this project,” he added.

But he also said a new constitution could become a reality in the coming months ahead of elections.

The talks near Tunis are aimed at hammering out a deal for a new transitional government for the oil-rich North African country.

Elections next year would be the first polls in Libya since 2014.

“It’s a very important date for Libyans,” said acting UN envoy Stephanie Williams about the scheduled date of the elections. “It will be a day when they can … renew the legitimacy of their institutions.”

She said Libyans feared an entrenched foreign presence in their country and “very much want to reclaim their sovereignty”.

Libya has been gripped by chaos and violence since the 2011 ouster and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Gadhafi after a NATO-backed popular uprising.

Rival administrations in the east and west, both backed by multiple armed groups and foreign powers, have since vied for control of the North African country.