UN-backed Libya talks fail to reach consensus on elections

The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum discusses constitutional basis for elections but fails to reach agreement after five days of talks.

Dbeibah has pledged he would “accept no new transitional phase or parallel authority” and would hand over power only to an elected government [File: Hazem Ahmed/AP]
The government of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah has been tasked with preparing the country for elections [File: Hazem Ahmed/AP Photo]

Libyan delegates have failed to agree on a legal framework to hold presidential and parliamentary elections later this year, the United Nations has said, putting an agreed-upon road map to end the conflict there in jeopardy.

The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), a 75-member body from all walks of life in Libya, concluded five days of talks in a hotel outside Geneva on Friday, the UN support mission in Libya said on Saturday.

Participants in the UN-brokered talks discussed several proposals for a constitutional basis for the elections, including some that were not consistent with the road map that set the vote for December 24. Others sought to establish conditions to hold elections as planned, the mission said.

The UN mission said the LPDF members have created a committee tasked with bridging the gap among the proposals put before the forum. But the deadlock remained.

“It is regrettable,” said Raisedon Zenenga, the mission’s coordinator. “The people of Libya will certainly feel let down as they still aspire to the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights in presidential and parliamentary elections on December 24.”

The mission urged forum members to continue consultations to agree on “a workable compromise and cement what unites them”. It warned that proposals which “do not make the elections feasible and possible to hold elections on 24 December will not be entertained”.

“This is not the outcome that many of us had hoped for, but it is the better outcome given the options that were on the table,” Elham Saudi, a forum member, wrote on Twitter. “This only delays the battle, but does not resolve the issues.”

Reporting from Tripoli, Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina said ongoing divisions between Libya’s main political groups proved to be insurmountable.

“This was a body created [by the UN] to help reach a consensus and bring about an agreement. They [the delegates] were meant to come up with a constitutional framework for elections to be held in December but they are deeply divided.

“Despite an interim government being appointed in February, each side was putting forward a different candidate. Libya is still divided over how to hold the elections in December,” he said.

UN criticised

More than two dozen LPDF members criticised the UN mission for its proposal that the forum vote on suggestions that included keeping the current government in power and only holding legislative elections.

Richard Norland, the US special envoy for Libya, accused “several members” of the forum of apparently trying to insert “poison pills” to ensure elections will not happen “either by prolonging the constitutional process or by creating new conditions that must be met for elections to occur”.

“We hope the 75 Libyans in the LPDF will re-dedicate themselves to allowing the 7 million Libyans throughout the country to have a voice in shaping Libya’s future,” he said.

Christian Buck, director of Middle East and North Africa at the German Foreign Ministry, urged the LPDF members to stick to the road map to elections in December.

“Any postponement would open doors to dangerous scenarios,” he tweeted.

Difficult road

The interim government, led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, was appointed by the forum earlier this year in a vote mired in corruption allegations. Its main mandate is to prepare the country for December elections in hopes of stabilising the divided nation.

Libya has been plagued by corruption and turmoil since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. In recent years, the country was split between a UN-recognised government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the country’s east.

Each side was backed by armed groups and foreign governments. The UN estimated in December there were at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Turkish troops, Syrians, Russians, Sudanese and Chadians.

In April 2019, east-based commander Khalifa Haftar and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive to try to capture the capital, Tripoli. Haftar’s 14-month campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the UN-recognised government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.

Last October, a ceasefire agreement was reached that led to a deal on the December elections and a transitional government that took office in February. The deal included a demand that all foreign fighters and mercenaries leave Libya within 90 days, but that demand has yet to be met.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies