Western capitals urge Libya to start election preparations

Lingering hurdles include domestic tensions and jockeying for positions as well Turkish-dispatched mercenaries.
Friday 07/05/2021
A Libyan voter casts his ballot at a polling station during the municipal elections in Tripoli, Libya February 6, 2021. (REUTERS)
A Libyan voter casts his ballot at a polling station during the municipal elections in Tripoli, Libya February 6, 2021. (REUTERS)

TRIPOLI--France, Germany, Italy, the United States and Britain have urged Libya Thursday to start preparations to meet a December deadline for holding elections, which it is hoped will help the country exit a decade of crisis.

Libya’s interim government, which came into being in March through a UN-backed inter-Libyan dialogue, is mandated to lead the country to elections on December 24, but formal preparations have not yet started.

“In addition to the political and security arrangements, the technical and logistical preparations will be critical,” a joint statement from the Western allies’ embassies in Libya read, calling on the authorities to “agree the constitutional and legal basis for these elections by July 1”.

“Now is not the time for any disruptive changes at the relevant bodies which enable that preparation to take place within the timescale set out.”

The head of the  Higher National Elections Commission, Imad Sayeh is understood to have told the parliament, the House of Representative and the consultative body, the State Council that his commission needs six months to organise the elections and asked for a decision on their format by July 1.

The interim government replaced two rival administrations based in Tripoli and the country’s east.

Both gave their backing to the new administration and the election timetable, generating cautious hope that Libya might move beyond the conflict and chaos that has entrapped it since the overthrow and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Among the lingering problems are the continued tensions between Tripoli-based Government of National Unity led by Abdulhamid Dbeibeh and the east-based Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Jockeying for positions and the possible reluctance of militants and Muslim-Brotherhood to accept the results of free and fair elections, just as they did after the 2014 elections could also stand in the way.

An additional source of tension is Turkey’s refusal to withdraw its troops from Libya despite calls from the United Nations.

Turkish  Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that he agreed that “foreign fighters and mercenaries … need to withdraw” but said that this did not apply to the Turkish-Libyan military agreement, without specifying if that included the thousands of militants and guns-for-hire dispatched by Ankara to fight against the LNA forces.