Home WORLD AFRICA Five questions to understand the situation in Libya

Five questions to understand the situation in Libya


1. What is the situation on the ground?

The ceasefire in place since October 23, 2020 has allowed the relaunch of a process of political dialogue under the aegis of the United Nations.

The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, a group of 75 delegates representing different regions and political groups as well as civil society, has prepared a roadmap that defines the steps leading to legislative and presidential elections.

This roadmap provided for the establishment of a government of national unity which was elected last March. Abdel Hamid Dbeibah is the interim prime minister.

Libya, which has the most abundant oil reserves in Africa, is the scene of a conflict between the Government of National Unity (GNA), recognized by the UN and based in Tripoli, and Marshal Khalifa Haftar, at the head of the Libyan National Army (ANL) which dominates the East and part of the South with significant foreign support.

Regarding the foreign fighters, whose departure was however provided for in the ceasefire agreement, nothing has really changed over the past year, estimates Nedra Cherif, independent researcher, specialist in transition processes. in the Arab world. They are still around 20,000 in the country, mostly Russians, Chadians, Sudanese, Nigerians and Syrians.

After the Paris conference, which was held in mid-November, Khalifa Haftar announced the withdrawal of 300 mercenaries, but it was a gesture for the gallery, observes Ms. Cherif, since he would have brought in several in the previous days. There is no real will on the part of the parties involved to withdraw their troops, she concludes.

The argument we hear a lot today is that the ceasefire is holding up because the foreign forces are there, and they have a bit of this balancing effect between the two camps. So we say to ourselves: “Let the future elected authorities negotiate this with the forces involved.”

A quote from Nedra Cherif, independent researcher, specialist in transition processes in the Arab world

2. Who are the presidential candidates?

No less than 98 people, including 2 women, registered on the electoral list for the election.

Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah behind a lectern and next to a Libyan flag.

Abdel Hamid Dbeibah was elected interim prime minister in a ballot held in Switzerland in February. He is now a candidate for the presidential election on December 24.

Photo: pool / afp via getty images / YOAN VALAT

Among the candidates are the interim prime minister, Abdel Hamid Dbeibah, and Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

The candidacy of Seif-al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Muammar Gaddafi, was not accepted by the electoral commission because of his criminal record. The son of the deposed dictator had been sentenced to death in absentia by a court in Tripoli for his role in the bloody repression of the 2011 revolt. He was, however, amnestied, like all Libyans involved in this crisis, by virtue of a law promulgated by the Parliament established in the east of the country.

However, he is still being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which accuses him of crimes against humanity for his role in planning repression.

Mr. Gaddafi wanted to appeal the decision of the Libyan High Electoral Commission, but the examination of his case could not take place due to an armed attack on the court where the judges were to meet.

The files of 24 other candidates, including several personalities from Colonel Gaddafi’s regime, were also rejected for non-compliance with the provisions of the electoral law.

3. When are the elections scheduled?

The first round of the presidential election is to be held on December 24. The second round and legislative elections, initially scheduled for the same day, will take place at the end of January.

So far, more than 2.8 million people have registered to vote.

A polling station worker checks a man's documents.

A man registers for voters at a polling station in Tripoli on November 8, 2021.

Photo: Getty Images / MAHMUD TURKIA

The process has aroused enthusiasm among Libyans, but it faces several pitfalls, especially regarding the legitimacy of the electoral law, which was not adopted according to the rules. The High Council of State in Tripoli [qui fait office de Sénat] says that he was not consulted as he should have been and that Parliament [basé à Tobrouk] unilaterally prepared electoral laws, explains Nedra Cherif. He is accused, in particular, of having prepared a law tailored to allow controversial candidacies, including those of the Speaker of Parliament, Aguila Saleh, and Khalifa Haftar.

Holding elections with a law that people do not agree with is very problematic.

A quote from Nedra Cherif, independent researcher, specialist in transition processes in the Arab world

Several therefore contest the law and call for boycott or postponement of the elections, the time to find a compromise.

This adds to the controversy raised by the candidacies of Seif al-Islam Gadhafi (rejected by the electoral authorities) and Khalifa Haftar. Demonstrations took place in several cities to denounce their participation in the process.

4. Is there a risk of fire?

winner takes all. There are more than 90 presidential candidates, but we do not see a unifying figure across the country. “,” Text “:” Absolutely, thinks Ms. Cherif. We are in a winner takes all approach. There are more than 90 presidential candidates, but we do not see a unifying figure across the country. “}}”>Absolutely, thinks Ms. Cherif. We are in an approach of winner takes all. There are more than 90 presidential candidates, but we do not see a unifying figure across the country. She fears the tensions and discontent that will arise within the losing camp in the aftermath of the election.

Kais Saied and Stephanie Williams.

The opening ceremony of the peace talks in Libya took place in Tunis on November 9, 2020, in the presence of Tunisian President Kais Saied and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Stephanie Williams.

Photo: Associated Press / Hassene Dridi

Between the start of the political dialogue and today, the meaning of these elections has completely changed, believes the researcher. The initial objective, when the United Nations launched this dialogue, was to start from scratch, on good foundations. However, in recent months the elections have become a goal in themselves. They are seen as spoils of war.

Many Libyans blame political actors for clinging to power at all costs.

5. Wouldn’t it be better to postpone the elections?

We are between a rock and a hard place, remarks Ms. Cherif. Libyans want elections because they see it as a way to renew a political class in which they have little confidence and to give future elected officials a certain legitimacy, which those who are currently in power do not enjoy. Many Libyans say to themselves that whatever authorities are elected, at least they will have the legitimacy of the people and they will have the right to decide their fate., emphasizes the researcher.

In short, the hopes are enormous and the risk of disillusion is too.

There is a disconnect between what people expect from an election and what will happen, she believes. People are asking for a complete change of the political class. However, we see that it is always the same who present themselves as candidates.

While the risks associated with the current political polarization around the elections are evident, failure to hold the elections could seriously deteriorate the situation in the country and lead to further divisions and conflicts., admitted in a statement the special envoy of the UN in Libya, Jan Kubis, who moreover tendered his resignation on November 17.

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