“The country is bleeding”: How Libya prepares for the first elections since the days of Gaddafi

“The country is bleeding”: How Libya prepares for the first elections since the days of Gaddafi

Lydia Misnik

In Libya, a few days before the first presidential elections in 10 years, the situation in the capital worsened. In the middle of the week, it became known about the seizure of some government buildings by armed men. In the course of the very preparation for the vote, numerous contradictions arise. As a result, the elections, which were supposed to stabilize the situation in the country, could potentially lead to even greater civil conflict.
In Libya, presidential elections are scheduled for December 24, the first since the death of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
And the closer the election day, the more tense the situation in the country. On December 15, armed men stormed into the headquarters of the Government of National Unity (PNU) and the building of the Ministry of Defense in Tripoli. As reported by the Al-Jamahiriya news agency, some areas of the Libyan capital were de-energized.
Arab media were divided over which faction was responsible for the attack. Al-Arabiya TV claims that the attackers are linked to the leader of the al-Samoud militia, Salah Badi of Misrata. This opinion is quite popular, given that the day before, he circulated a video demanding to cancel the elections, in which he accused UN Secretary General Adviser Stephanie Williams of “a farce that is taking place in Libya.”
At the same time, there is a version that several groups participated in the attack at once, disagreeing with the decision of the presidential council to dismiss the commander of the Tripoli military district Abdel Baset Marwan, replacing him with Major General Abdel Qader Khalifa.
Abdel Baset Marwan is closely associated with the “Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade”, his tenure at the command post did not suit representatives of other groups, in particular from the 444th brigade and the RADA special forces, connected with Abdel Qader Khalifa.
According to Arab media reports, the situation in the capital was calm the very next day.
Nevertheless, some of the buildings remained under siege, the opposing sides did not withdraw their equipment from the streets of the capital.
The elections, of course, should stabilize the situation in Libya, but a number of conditions must be met for this, Russian and Soviet diplomat Vladimir Zakharov told Gazeta.Ru . However, for this to happen, agreement must be reached between all parties to the Libyan conflict, as well as mutual understanding between external players, primarily between neighbors: Turkey, Egypt, the United States, France and Russia.
“The country is bleeding. Now nothing can be predicted, the situation remains tense. But Libya desperately needs peace. From a prosperous country with the highest per capita GDP in Africa, Libya has turned into an impoverished country because of this conflict, because of the intervention of the West. If all these circumstances combine, you can expect some kind of reassurance. But this is still a long way off, ”the diplomat said in a conversation with Gazeta.Ru.
How is the pre-election race going
Preparations for the presidential and parliamentary elections are not progressing smoothly. The decision to hold them was made in November last year within the framework of the Libyan Forum for Political Dialogue in Geneva – it was held under the auspices of the UN. The date of December 24 was supported by all external mediators interested in resolving a political settlement in Libya.
Preparations for the elections were supposed to be handled by the National Unity Government, which was sworn in in March, but problems and controversies over the electoral law have arisen from the outset. Some proposed to vote for the constitution first, and then hold elections, others – to do the opposite.
Disagreements have arisen over who can run for president. 98 people applied for registration to participate in the elections in Libya, including the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar, the Chairman of the Libyan House of Representatives Akila Saleh, the current head of the government of national unity Abdelhamid Dbeiba, the son of the ex-leader of the Jamahiriya Muammar Gaddafi Seif al -Islam Gaddafi and the former head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Government of National Accord (PNS) of Libya Fathi Bashaga.
The Libyan Supreme Election Commission on November 24 rejected applications from 25 of all applicants.
Seif al-Islam Gaddafi was the first to be refused because his documents do not meet a number of requirements of the electoral law: he did not provide a document confirming that he had no outstanding criminal record and violated the requirement that a candidate “cannot be finally convicted in connection with an honor crime”.
In 2020, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda announced that Libya is obliged to arrest Gaddafi and bring him to trial. An arrest warrant was issued by the ICC back in 2011.
The election commission also rejected the current prime minister’s application.
However, later both Abdel Hamid Dbeiba and Seif al-Islam Gaddafi were admitted to the elections by court decision, which caused discontent in various political circles.
If we talk about the preferences of the people of Libya, there is no one political force that is supported by all Libyans, Tatyana Tyukayeva, a senior lecturer at MGIMO , Candidate of Political Sciences, told Gazeta.Ru.
“In general, Libyan society has an unambiguous desire for elections, the Libyans really want them to take place. But still there is a certain distrust of all the political forces that exist today, they are all very controversial, each has influence and popularity – some more, some less. While the Libyan people really want this to just end, they just want stability. That is, very few people care about socio-economic problems and what political force will solve them, ”the expert explained.
Elections may postpone
Against the background of these disagreements, the question arose of postponing the elections. Even the electoral commission has so far decided to postpone the publication of the final list of presidential candidates.
The media adviser to House Speaker Fathi al-Marimi, in an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, expressed the opinion that the elections could be postponed for a “short period” of less than 15 days, as the electoral process faced “difficulties and obstacles.” But, as he claims, all controversial issues can be resolved until next Monday.
Member of the Libyan Election Commission, Abu Bakr Marda, in turn, told the Al-Jazeera TV channel that “holding elections on December 24 is impossible.”
So far, only Russia has commented on the possible postponement of elections from outside players. “The date has been set – December 24th. I hope it will be sustained. The priority for us is not the formal observance of a certain deadline, but the substantive provision of the elections in such a way that representatives of all leading political forces can take part in them and the results are recognized by all of them. I will be honest and open that from this point of view, even if there is a slight delay or postponement, I do not see a big trouble in this, ”said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an interview with the Egyptian TV channel TeN TV.
According to the candidate of political sciences Tatyana Tyukayeva, it is not yet known to what extent the possible transfer will contribute to the radicalization of public sentiments, because the process is very fragile and at any moment can lead to an aggravation of the situation.
“The elections will definitely not solve all the problems, because the complex of these problems is very large. But at the same time, everyone understands that if the elections do not take place, it will be even worse. That is, these elections will be the next step towards the peace process, which is, at the very least, very unstable, fragile, ”she stated.

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