By Vanessa Tomassini.
On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser Stephanie Williams discussed developments related to the electoral process during her meeting with several presidential candidates in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Williams said he met with some presidential candidates to discuss “ways to protect the electoral process and carry it forward, by giving the Libyan people the opportunity to choose their representatives.” Williams has published snapshots of these meetings, including former vice president of the Government of National Accord, Ahmed Maiteeq, former government education minister Othman Abdel-Jalil, Mohamed Ahmed Al-Sharif, and Fadil Al-Amin.
The National High Electoral Commission (HNEC) has proposed postponing the first round of the presidential elections by one month, precisely to January 24, 2022, “due to force majeure.” It will now be up to Parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR) based in Tobruk, to endorse this date and take the necessary measures to allow Libyans to continue in the democratic transition. It will be recalled that the Presidency of the House has decided, in recent days, to form a committee of ten members in charge of working on the proposal for a table marching after December 24, as the long-awaited elections could not be organized in time. Many observers fear an institutional vacuum if the Government of National Unity (GNU), led by Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah, would be considered illegitimate. That is because it failed to maintain its Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) commitments. That appointed it last January in Geneve to lead the Libyans towards December 24 elections.
In this context, the visit to Benghazi on Tuesday by former Minister of the Interior Fathi Bashagha, Ahmed Maiteeq to General Khalifa Haftar and other candidates for the presidency of Libya caused much discussion. In fact, for months, there have been meetings between some emblematic figures of the western region and the representatives of Cyrenaica, including Haftar and Aguila Saleh. They would be ready to lead yet another phase of transition if it is not possible to go to vote for legislative or military reasons. When the candidates themselves posted on social networks the meeting photos, Salah Badi, subjected to international sanctions for his role in the war on Tripoli between 2014 and 2015, which led to the destruction of Tripoli International Airport, took to the streets in Misrata. He was showing weapons and inviting young people to fight for their rights. The Islamist had launched serious threats a few days ago to close the institutions if they did not go to the vote thoughtfully and transparently, however rejecting the candidacy of Haftar and Saif for Islam Gaddafi. The threats were accompanied by the action of some armed groups in the capital, closing some roads, and surrounding the seats of power to demonstrate against the decision of the Presidential Council to remove General Abdul Basit Marwan from his position as commander of the military region of Tripoli. A perhaps risky choice in this already tricky phase, withdrawn by the Council after a meeting with young leaders in the capital.
What do the candidates think of this electoral moment postponement?
Thirty-two Libyan presidential candidates gathered yesterday in the west coast city of Zawiya to address the challenges of democratic transition. In a final eight-point statement, the participants expressed a sense of resentment and disappointment, stressing “the importance of Libya’s sovereignty, which does not allow interference in its affairs” and their “full confidence in the peaceful transfer of power, considering the polls as the only way to build the state.” They reiterated the need to “respect the will of the Libyan people and their desire to move forward in the electoral process, not confiscating the right of Libyans to choose their representative for the presidency.” They called on HNEC to announce as soon as possible the final list of candidates in the presidential elections and the preliminary list of candidates in the parliamentary elections. “We deplore the unjustified suspension of the elections and underline the need to respect the electoral deadline, which cannot be interrupted again under any circumstances.”
They welcomed HNEC’s proposal of January 24, 2022, as a deadline for the first round of the presidential elections. “We affirm our position with the will of the Libyan people and declare our total refusal to enter any new phase of transition.” The thirty-two candidates who met in Zawiya on Wednesday, and others could add, also asked the Parliament to assume its responsibilities towards the electoral process before the Libyan people. “We ask the countries involved in the Libyan crisis and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya to assume their responsibilities towards the electoral process, to respect the will, and to support the Libyans without being selective in dealing with candidates.” They concluded.
Reached over the phone, presidential candidate Leila Bin Khalifa explained us that “delaying the elections is a cheap game that HNEC, the current Government, and the Parliament members are playing to buy more time. Furthermore, today they have set up a commission with some MPs as members to study the other way, after December 24, an alternative road map that will only serve their purpose. Then they will announce a new government in a couple of months, avoiding the elections because they will lose all their current election spots. In our party, we are completely opposed to these actions. We fully stand for election. We will fight any action that is against the organization of the elections as soon as possible“.
“December 24 was a political date, and January 24, I expect it to be a technical data,” determined young presidential candidate Assad Zhew told us. “I don’t know if this date will be respected by the parties involved in the political process, but we hope so because the situation does not tolerate a new transition phase. There are major challenges that everyone must face today to meet this date. The most important of which is the resolution of the legal and political blockade announced by HNEC and reported in its report to the House of Representatives.” Zhew continued, pointing out that “the biggest problem remains the final list of candidates in the presidential elections. If some names are mentioned in it, there will be obstacles from some parties, in the same way, it will not be accepted by some important names if they will not be included”.
It seems drastic Abdel Majid Saif Al-Nasr, who took part in the meeting of Bashagha, Maiteeq, Aref Ali Nayed, Haftar, and other candidates in Benghazi on Tuesday. In this regard, he declared: “During the meeting, we agreed to accept the polls’ results and respect the people’s choices. This meeting aimed to get Libya out of the darkness of wars and divisions.” Saif Al-Nasr stressed: “We adhere to the end of the mandate of all current political bodies on December 24, according to the political road map, and we will not accept any postponement or extension of their mandate after this date. “
On the other hand, Professor Mayouf Amarif, a presidential candidate at the Sabha electoral circle in southern Libya, is more optimistic: “the date of January 24, 2022, gives us new hope that the electoral process can continue. It also limits the HoR manoeuvres given the next session expected in a few days, on December 27. I believe the House will take its revenge on the Government for sure; elections are their second priority. With more pressure from the international community, Parliament will accept this new date. We are still waiting to hear the opinion of Special advisor Stephanie Williams on this postponement.”