Libya: presidential elections in jeopardy
In Libya, the intrigue is growing around the scheduled for December 24 this year. presidential elections, the threat of a postponement of which is becoming more and more real. This could undermine international efforts for a Libyan settlement and lead to an exacerbation of the internal political conflict.
Since the beginning of autumn, such a reversal has been repeatedly predicted by various analysts and political scientists. On December 8, literally 2 weeks before the elections themselves, this scenario was voiced by the Supreme State Council in Tripoli, proposing to postpone the elections to February 2022. The chairman of the council, H. al-Mishri, in particular argued the position by the fact that the current electoral process is illegitimate and is organized in violation of the foundations of the inter-Libyan political agreement and the “road map” agreed under the auspices of the UN.
Opportunities for candidates to conduct full-fledged election campaigns were not provided. The election commission has not yet officially announced the final list of candidates for the presidential race, while 98 candidates are known to have submitted official registration applications. The problem is in internal contradictions leading to deliberate violation of procedures and delegitimization of processes. In addition to the most famous and controversial figures on this list — LNA commander H. Haftar and M. Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam, in November, unexpectedly and contrary to legitimate processes and agreements, the current interim Prime Minister of the country A.Kh. .Dbeiba. Thus, he actually violated the previous agreements about his non-participation in the elections and resignation from the post of prime minister three months before they were held.
In view of a number of legal claims in favor of excluding a number of candidates from the number of applicants, the election commission is virtually paralyzed. In early December, she officially announced the suspension of 25 participants from the elections, but refused to officially announce the final list of candidates, in fact, preventing the start of a full-fledged election campaign on time, a couple of weeks before the vote.
The above circumstances, which demonstrate the persistence of a high degree of conflict potential among the various political elites of Libya, undoubtedly undermined the legitimacy of the presidential race and the electoral process that had not yet started formally. Another structural reason for the insufficient legitimization of the elections in Libya was the fact that the road map and the electoral process were launched on the basis of the political institutions formed earlier immediately after the overthrow of M. Gaddafi and the conflicting political institutions, whose members a priori had significant political differences among themselves. Dissolving and completely dismantling these institutions to create a new political base for elections is too risky and impossible.
As a consequence, the controversial electoral law approved by the Libyan parliament in September added further uncertainty. In particular, this law provided for the separation of presidential and parliamentary elections, and the latter was proposed to be held at a later date. The law was promoted by the speaker of parliament A. Saleh, while a number of his political opponents accused the speaker of illegal pressure on parliamentarians to lobby for such a decision. Also, as the electoral campaign developed and the registration process began, the existing disagreements between the parliament and the supreme state council of Libya were again exposed. As a result, the chances of equal participation in the campaign, including in media events and debates, especially among the remaining candidates less known to the general public, were reduced to zero at the start of the electoral process. In addition, pressure from external forces regarding the registration of certain candidates, including the most famous political figures, also intensified.
The threat of postponing the elections will certainly bring even greater destabilization to the internal political processes in Libya and may become the worst evil for its political future. Even a minimally transparent electoral process, taking into account the known violations, is long overdue and expected in Libyan society. The cancellation of elections in December, with a likely (but not finally confirmed) postponement to February, will not only undermine voters’ confidence, but also threaten the legitimate recognition of the election results in the future, including by international institutions and various external players. But an even more serious risk may become the intensification of armed confrontation and conflicts immediately after the formal postponement of the elections, therefore, with such a turn, the chances of their successful holding in 2022 will significantly decrease.
In fact, the main intrigue today is at what stage the election commission will decide to publish the final list of presidential candidates and who exactly will be on this list. The internal struggle over these two issues continues unabated. Part of the political forces is trying to block the participation of M. Gaddafi’s son, who was first officially dismissed by the election commission, but then after e filing an appeal again reinstated by the Sebha Court. Given the political sensitivity of the issue, the election commission is in no hurry to deliver a final verdict and is unlikely to do so until December 24.
On the sidelines, many are inclined to think that the December 24 elections will not take place. The only question is how long they will be shifted and what will be the consequences of the delay in terms of their impact on the internal military-political situation.