Libya’s foreign minister says December polls could be delayed

Najla al-Mangoush says the government is doing everything in its power to hold the December vote but challenges persist.

Al-Mangoush's comments on Tuesday came a day after the UN envoy to Libya Jan Kubis warned that time was pressing for Libyans to finalise a legal framework for elections to be held on time [File: Maxim Shipenkov/Reuters]

Libya’s foreign minister is refusing to exclude the possibility that general elections set for December may be postponed if Parliament continues to delay the ratification of an electoral law.

The development on Tuesday comes a day after UN envoy to Libya, Jan Kubis, said time was running short for Libyans to finalise a legal framework for elections to be held on time.

Early August talks in Geneva had exposed deep divisions over when to hold elections, what elections to hold, and on what constitutional grounds.

“As a government, we have put in place everything required to move towards elections, providing financial, logistical and material support to the elections commission,” Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush told a news conference in the Algerian capital Algiers after meeting with Algerian officials.

“I cannot answer whether the elections will be postponed or not, but we are trying to ensure they will be held on the scheduled date” of December 24.

But “we are still waiting to see if Parliament will approve the electoral law… This could block or postpone the election,” she added.

The minister also said there would be a “consultative meeting” of neighbouring countries and “friendly states” in late September or early October, with the security of the polls high on the agenda.

Algiers conference

Al-Mangoush’s comments came as several neighbouring countries wrapped up a regional summit in Algiers on Monday, with demands that foreign fighters leave the North African country topping the agenda.

Libya, which holds Africa’s biggest oil reserves, has been mired in conflict since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

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. The sometimes chaotic war has drawn in several outside powers and foreign arms and mercenaries.

Last October, a ceasefire agreement was reached that led to a deal on the December elections and a transitional government, led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, tasked with organising the polls.

The two-day meeting in Algiers, attended by the foreign ministers of Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Chad and Niger, also addressed the security vacuum that the conflict in Libya created in the region.

The UN estimates as many as 20,000 foreign fighters are in Libya.

“So far, we don’t know where these illegal forces present in Libya will go. The most reasonable thing would be for those who brought these people into Libya to send them back out of Libya, to the places they came from,” Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said.

“This is the way for us [Algeria] and the neighbouring countries to avoid also becoming victims of an unorganised and unsupervised withdrawal of those groups.”

Source: News Agencies