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Libya’s path to democracy remains blocked as political impasse persists

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Libya’s electoral commission told the United Nations it could only start the countdown to national elections after resolving the question of forming a new government.

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The United Nations envoy to Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, was speaking to the United Nations Security Council on Monday after the speaker of Libya’s east-based parliament issued new electoral laws as part of international diplomacy aimed at resolve years of conflict through the ballot box.

A standoff between Libya’s rival political and military factions over the interim government has escalated since early last year, leading to brief fighting.

Libya has seen little peace or security since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 and it was divided in 2014 between warring eastern and western factions, although a major war was largely avoided since a 2020 ceasefire.

A national unity government led by Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah was installed through a UN-backed process in 2021, but the Libyan parliament no longer recognizes its legitimacy.

The electoral conundrum

In his opening comments on the new electoral laws, Bathily told the Security Council: “From a technical point of view, the revised laws are an improvement over previous drafts.

“From a political point of view, the most controversial questions (…) remain unresolved,” he added, highlighting the rejection of key amendments by another legislative body, the High Council of State .

The issues include a mandatory runoff in the presidential election even if a candidate wins the most votes, a rule that Bathily said could be misused to exclude candidates from the runoff or call into question a majority result.

Subjecting the validity of legislative elections to that of presidential elections “exposes the process to a high risk of disruption,” Bathily said.

The most difficult issue, however, remains the creation of a new government responsible for overseeing the elections.

Dbeibah refused to resign before elections and rejected the legitimacy of parliament, elected in 2014 for a two-year term.

Bathily also stressed that the elections require a unified government agreed by the main players in eastern and western Libya, who have so far shown little inclination to agree.

(with press wires)


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