High State Council (HSC) has called for a December 24 presidential election to be delayed to February amid growing jostling over the rules and legal basis of a vote aimed at ending a decade of instability.
The statement came on Wednesday, less than three weeks before the vote. The advisory body, which was created through a 2015 peace agreement, but is not recognised by all other Libyan political entities.
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In Libya’s fractured political environment, the extent of the HSC’s powers has been debated, but its statement has added to the doubts surrounding the election.
The electoral commission has not yet announced a final list of candidates for the presidential race following a fractious process of judicial appeals about the eligibility of the 98 who registered to run.
Arguments about some highly divisive candidates, including key figures from Libya’s conflict, have already threatened to torpedo the election.
Those disputes revealed deeper disagreements about the basis for a voting process that has already diverged from the United Nations-backed plan that set the vote, as well as a controversial election law issued in September by the parliament speaker.
The UN-back plan envisaged the election as a way to end disputes about the legitimacy of Libya’s rival political bodies, formed during earlier transitional periods following the 2011 revolution that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi.
The HSC was drawn from members of a national assembly elected in 2012 who rejected the results of a 2014 election that created the current parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR).
Despite the 2015 political agreement that enshrined a legislative role for the HoR and an advisory role for the HSC, they do not formally recognise each other, although they have held sporadic peace negotiations in Morocco.
Fears of crisis
Some Libyans have feared the disputes about the current election process could trigger a similar crisis to that surrounding the 2014 vote, when Libya split between warring western and eastern factions with parallel administrations in Tripoli and Benghazi.
The HSC statement on Wednesday said the presidential and parliamentary elections should both take place on the same day, as was originally demanded by the UN plan.
Laws issued in September and October by HoR speaker Aguila Saleh, a presidential candidate, set a first-round presidential vote for December 24 but delayed the parliamentary vote.
Saleh’s critics have accused him of issuing the laws without a quorum or a proper vote in parliament and after intimidating some members. Saleh and his allies have denied wrongdoing and said the laws were passed properly.