On December 22, simply two days earlier than Libya’s presidential election was scheduled to happen, the electoral board introduced the postponement of the vote. The Excessive Nationwide Electoral Fee (HNEC) steered January 24, 2022, as a brand new date for the polls, after a parliamentary committee tasked with overseeing the elections deemed them “not possible” to conduct on December 24 as initially deliberate.
Nevertheless, till now, there isn’t a settlement in regards to the new date or the electoral procedures, or on whether or not presidential and parliamentary elections ought to be held on the identical day or not. However the lack of consensus on these logistical issues is by far not the most important drawback.
There are main unresolved points polarising the nation proper now and, within the absence of an open dialogue to settle them, holding the elections on January 24 or another future date dangers plunging the nation into a brand new cycle of violence.
Previous election conundrums
Conducting elections amid extreme political polarisation has already confirmed disastrous for peace in Libya. After longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, Libyan actors and international gamers rushed to elections so as to jumpstart the nation’s political transition. However as an alternative of bringing stability, the polls solely worsened political and social tensions, which resulted in repeated episodes of lethal violence.
On July 7, 2012, Libya held its first parliamentary vote because the collapse of Gaddafi’s regime to elect the 200-member Common Nationwide Congress (GNC). Though they have been lauded as “free and truthful” by main Western powers and the UN, the elections didn’t deliver stability to the nation.
Main social and political cleavages had not been addressed which led to unrest earlier than and after the vote. Previous grievances of japanese and southern areas reemerged, as their residents noticed the unequal geographic distribution of seats as an indication that their marginalisation by Tripoli would proceed in post-Gaddafi Libya as effectively.
Moreover, native political actors sought to weaken the GNC. Forward of the vote, the legislative physique was disadvantaged of key powers, akin to appointing a committee to draft the structure and debating its provisions. Thus, the Tripoli-based GNC was born weak, affected by restricted powers and an absence of legitimacy. The cupboard it elected was equally debilitated.
This allowed rogue political actors to benefit from inter-regional tensions for their very own political acquire. In February 2014, Common Khalifa Haftar, a senior officer in Gaddafi’s military who had turned in opposition to him, launched his Operation Dignity, urging Libyans to insurgent in opposition to the GNC. In Might, his forces stormed the GNC constructing in Tripoli and launched an offensive in opposition to armed teams in Benghazi.
With its mandate having expired and the nation slipping into warfare, the GNC was pressured to schedule new parliamentary elections in June. Amid violence and record-low turnout, the Home of Representatives was elected. Many GNC members, primarily from the west, contested the outcomes and refused at hand over legislative energy to the brand new physique. Forces loyal to the GNC prevented the newly elected deputies from beginning work. In November, the Libyan Supreme Courtroom dominated that the June 25 elections have been unconstitutional, however the Home of Representatives, which had acquired UN recognition, ignored the decision.
Thus, by the tip of the yr, the nation was successfully divided between two camps: the Common Nationwide Congress situated in Tripoli, which acted as the manager and was ultimately changed in 2015 by the UN-recognised Authorities of Nationwide Accord (GNA), and the Home of Representatives, which had moved from the capital to the japanese port metropolis of Tobruk.
One of many important causes elections failed to maneuver the nation ahead was the absence of settlement between the completely different political actors in Libya and dedication to primary political ideas of the democratic transition. Previous to endeavor these votes, no ensures have been put in place to make sure acceptance and compliance of all events with the ultimate outcomes. There have been no important measures taken to resolve historic grievances of marginalised teams and safeguard their illustration within the new state establishments. There was additionally no correct reconciliation between communities and tribes that had been concerned in previous violence.
The absence of those essential components of the transitional course of led to its eventual collapse. Regularly, the division over legitimacy and state illustration dragged the nation right into a civil warfare between rival camps supported by regional gamers.
It then took the worldwide neighborhood and Libyan civilian forces a number of years to attempt to jump-start the transition course of. In 2020, a ceasefire was negotiated to finish Haftar’s failed offensive on Tripoli. The Libya Political Dialogue Discussion board (LPDF) was then launched, supported by the UN Mission in Libya (UNSMI) and regional and worldwide actors, akin to Egypt, Turkey, Russia, France, the US, and Italy – every with their very own pursuits in Libya.
In 2021, the Authorities of Nationwide Unity (GNU) was fashioned as a provisional establishment to maneuver ahead the political course of within the nation, and presidential elections have been scheduled for December 24. Regardless of initially approving the GNU, the Home of Representatives ultimately handed a no-confidence vote in opposition to it in September.
Persevering with polarisation
Nicely forward of the vote, it was clear that outdated divisions proceed to fester and undermine the transition. There have been a number of sticking factors, which mirror the wide-raging polarisation in Libya and which have undermined the electoral course of.
First, the election legislation, which outlined electoral procedures and the post-election institutional setup, was not accepted by all events. The provisions of the legislation have been written and handed by the Home of Representatives, which didn’t seek the advice of correctly with different Libyan state establishments, such because the GNU, the Presidency Council and the Excessive State Council (HSC).
The legislation was additionally drafted in a manner that arrange Libya’s political system as a presidential one, endowing the presidency with important powers. Provisions within the legislation additionally permit present office-holders to run within the elections after which return to their positions in the event that they lose.
Second, no consensus candidates, who may unite a divided Libya, have been put ahead forward of the election. In reality, the front-runners within the race have been all divisive figures. These included: GNU Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh who determined to run regardless of having promised to not; Aguila Saleh, the chairman of the Home of Representatives and an in depth ally of Haftar; Haftar himself; and at last, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, one in all Gaddafi’s sons, who’s accused of crimes in opposition to humanity and is needed by the Worldwide Felony Courtroom and the overall prosecutor in Tripoli.
Saif al-Islam’s candidacy, particularly, has brought on a lot outrage amongst Libyans, who’re appalled that an election meant to place the nation again on its democratic transition path may deliver the Gaddafi regime again. Whereas he’s probably the most controversial of those front-runners, the remainder are additionally fairly problematic. It’s clear all of them wish to run so as to restore or defend their positions and privileges and could be unable to de-escalate tensions, deliver the nation collectively and discover acceptance from all regional gamers.
Third, similar to in 2012 and 2014, there seems to be no consensus on the “guidelines of the sport” forward of the presidential vote. The principle political actors – backed by varied armed teams – have clearly been in disagreement about what would occur after the election, how the switch of energy would happen and the way the popularity of the outcomes by all could be assured.
Moreover, there are not any impartial safety forces or unified military that might assure the peacefulness of the vote, no impartial judiciary system that might sort out disputes, and no unbiased media that might preserve the Libyan folks correctly knowledgeable. Most significantly, there isn’t a reconciliation between Libyans, as outdated and new grievances proceed to fester and varied communities proceed to face marginalisation.
The way in which ahead
The UN, together with the worldwide neighborhood, has tried to show a blind eye to the interior divisions between important Libyan actors and pushed Libyans to carry elections at any price, simply because it has performed up to now, to the detriment of the nation.
Clearly, holding elections beneath these circumstances, that are fairly much like these in 2012 and 2014, if not worse, is not going to result in peace and stability in Libya. That’s the reason the postponement of the vote ought to be seen as a possibility to tug the nation again from sliding into one other cycle of violence.
To be able to put Libya again on a peaceable transition path, the nation wants a brand new nationwide dialogue supported by the UN and the worldwide neighborhood. It ought to deliver collectively all Libyan stakeholders, together with civil society, representatives of ethnic minorities (just like the Amazigh and Tebu), marginalised areas (like Fezza) and marginalised teams (like girls and youth) and search to determine consensus on the electoral course of, related lawmaking, switch of energy, and division of powers amongst state establishments.
The principle political actors ought to declare publicly their dedication to the electoral course of, pledge to respect the ultimate outcomes and put together at hand over their energy. The dialogue also needs to give you a roadmap to deal with different essential problems with the transitional interval, akin to drafting a brand new structure, the reunification of state establishments – significantly the military – the reform of the safety sector, and reconciliation between Libyans.
A decade after the autumn of Gaddafi’s regime, it’s time that Libya and its worldwide companions study from previous errors. Dashing Libyans to carry yet another election amid extreme polarisation and simmering grievances will result in extra instability and violence. Libya has the potential to emerge from its failed state circumstances, however so as to take action, it wants the assist of the worldwide neighborhood to carry a nationwide dialogue and transfer in the direction of peace and reconciliation.
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.