Controversy Surrounding Libyan Elections: Criticisms And Accusations Against UN Envoy – OpEd


The UN envoy to Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, has confirmed that he is engaging in discussions and consultations with various political parties in the country. This is in an effort to save the election project, as disagreements have arisen over the method of access to polling stations. The aim is to make a breakthrough in the political process, resolve disputes related to election laws, and form a unified government.

The UN envoy has met with the heads of the Government of National Unity, Abdel Hamid al-dabaiba, the Presidential Council, Mohamed Al-Manfi, and the Supreme Council of State, Mohamed Takala. He has also met with the Speaker of Parliament, Aguila Saleh Issa, and the Commander of the Libyan Army, General Khalifa Haftar. Despite these efforts, the leaders have shown no inclination or desire to reach agreements on controversial issues, particularly electoral laws and the formation of a unified government.

The leaders within the authority are resistant to change and refuse to reach agreements, creating disagreements to prevent the elections from taking place. They benefit from the conflict and use it to maintain their positions and prolong the political crisis. Anti-election forces are also exerting control over the situation.

Bathily is now attempting to push the political process towards elections. However, he has lost the confidence of the Libyan parties and faces criticism and accusations of bias. Calls for his departure have been made. If he were to leave, it is unclear who would be able to save Libya and unify the government. Both governments seem to have a desire to prevent a political solution.

The path to a political solution in Libya remains uncertain. The main parties have failed to reach a consensus on organizing elections. Bathily has emphasized the need for an alternative plan if an agreement on holding elections cannot be reached. He has even threatened to bypass the roles of Parliament and the Supreme Council of State in issuing election laws. However, the details of this plan have not been revealed.

Libya is currently experiencing a worsening political crisis due to the existence of two governments in the country. One government, appointed by Parliament, is located in the east, while another government in the west emerged from political agreements sponsored by the United Nations. The government in Tripoli, led by Abdel Hamid al-dabaiba, refuses to relinquish power unless through elections. However, there are concerns about whether these elections will actually take place or if they will be manipulated for financial and political gain.

The first-ever presidential elections in Libya were initially scheduled for December 24, 2021. However, political disagreements among the various parties involved in the Libyan crisis, as well as disputes over the election law, have prevented their occurrence. The elections have been postponed multiple times to make amendments to the laws.

It is evident that the country can no longer tolerate the formation of another interim government. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Libya is committed to working with all Libyans to restore peace and stability to the country. Extensive consultations have been conducted with key Libyan figures from all sectors of society, including visits to different regions in the east, south, and west of Libya.

Over the past ten years, Libya has experienced conflict and division. Despite having abundant resources and the potential for prosperity, the country has suffered greatly due to this conflict since 2011. Extremist groups, jihadist movements, and criminal gangs have emerged in the Sahel and Sahara region, as well as in neighboring countries in North Africa. The restoration of peace and stability in Libya is not only crucial for the Libyan people but also for the neighboring countries. Elections are seen as the only way to regain institutional legitimacy.

The Libyan people need these institutions, and the establishment of new institutions is eagerly awaited. The existing institutions, whether they are judicial or legislative bodies, need to be renewed. This includes the legislative council, such as the House of Representatives and the Supreme Council of State.

Currently, Libya has two governments, one in the east and one in the west. This situation raises concerns about the future of a country that is already plagued by divided political, security, and military leadership. If this division persists, Libya may face long-term fragmentation, resulting in the loss of sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Libyan people desire a united nation, and it is crucial for the international community to call for unity in order to restore Libya’s sovereignty.

The elections, originally scheduled for December 2022, unfortunately had to be canceled. The House of Representatives and the Supreme Council of State convened and assigned the 6+6 Committee to draft electoral laws. The committee has prepared draft electoral laws, but these laws require amendments, fine-tuning, and careful examination before they can be enforced.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya, along with the Supreme National Elections Committee, has identified gaps and shortcomings in the draft electoral laws. Once these issues are addressed and the electoral laws are finalized, a roadmap can be established to determine a new date for the elections.

At the same time, the Libyan House of Representatives refuses to participate in the UN envoy’s initiative to bring together the Libyan parties and agree on the disputed issues regarding holding elections. Bathily observation called on the House of Representatives to appoint a representative to attend the preparatory meetings for the meeting that the United Nations Support Mission in Libya intends to organize for the major leadership in the country.

The House of Representatives confirmed its reservations regarding what was stated in the statement of the UN envoy and the UN mission’s lack of respect for the results of the House of Representatives related to the 13th constitutional amendment and the decision to grant confidence to the Libyan government (the parallel government). It confirmed that it was not invited to the meeting, even though it is the legitimate government that the House of Representatives granted confidence after the end of the legal period for the national unity government.

The House of Representatives also affirmed its refusal to participate in any dialogue or political agreement that does not respect the Libyan will, the legitimate institutions elected by the Libyan people, and the executive institutions that emerged from them. It also refuses to repeat previous experiences that proved its failure in resolving the Libyan crisis and calls on the relevant Libyan institutions to reach a settlement on the politically disputed issues related to the implementation of the electoral process.

Member of the Presidential Council, Moussa Faki Mahamat Chairman of the African Union Commission, confirmed a number of issues related to the political situation in Libya, including elections and achieving stability. In addition, he mentioned the reconciliation project and the G-10 summit’s concern with reforming the Security Council in Equatorial Guinea. He supported the Commission for the success of the reconciliation project led by the Presidential Council in order to reach the stage of stability that paves the way for holding elections.

The government of the east of the country expressed its rejection of the move of the UN envoy Abdullah Bathily to exclude it from the new round of talks with the call of the national unity government.

The appointed parallel government renewed its refusal to include the Presidential Council and the Government of National Unity in the United Nations-led meetings with the aim of discussing obstacles to the elections. It noted that the two parties – the Presidential Council and the Government of National Unity – did not emerge from an elected body but came as a result of previous agreements whose term and mandate had expired. It is now accusing the leadership of the UN mission and its head of double standards in dealing with the Libyan file, which has questioned the will of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and his ability to make the right decisions.

The Hammad government considered Bathily “unfit” to manage the Libyan crisis and called for the appointment of a new envoy because he sides with one party over the other and entrenches the division among Libyans.

The UN mission in Libya asked the Presidential Council, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Council of State, the Government of National Accord, and the military authority in the east to nominate their representatives who will participate in a preparatory meeting to discuss the agenda of the Transitional Council. This session aims to gather their leaders and identify the outstanding issues facing the High National Elections Commission before implementing the laws and elections issued by the House of Representatives.

Now we find that attempts at manipulation are continuing, and this manipulation results in an extension of the period of new elections that may not occur unless the United Nations intervenes with an unannounced alternative plan.

Prof. Miral Sabry AlAshry

Prof. Miral Sabry AlAshry is Co-lead for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at the Centre for Freedom of the Media, the Department of Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield.

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