Libya’s GNA: Haftar allies disrupting municipal elections in east

City elections in Misrata and those planned across western and southern Libya could help pave the way for nationwide elections.

Voters in the western Libyan city of Misrata are heading to the polls to elect municipal leaders.

Thursday’s vote in the war-torn country’s third-largest city and those planned across western and southern Libya could help pave the way for nationwide elections, but the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) has accused renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces of disrupting planned polls elsewhere.

“Unfortunately in eastern Libya they are going back to individual rule and they don’t have the freedom to vote,” Mohamed Shaafe, an election trainer, said.

Elected officials were removed from office.”

‘Voting only solution’

A major oil producer, Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. The country has since been divided into two rival camps that are based in the country’s east and west – and that in recent years have been vying for power.

The conflict escalated in April last year when Haftar, who is supported by Russian mercenaries, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, announced an offensive to wrest control of the capital from the United Nations-recognised GNA.

Backed by Turkey, the GNA in early June succeeded in repelling Haftar, driving his self-styled Libyan National Army to the coastal Mediterranean city of Sirte.

Last month, GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj offered a ceasefire and called for the demilitarisation of Sirte, a city located roughly halfway between Tripoli and Haftar’s bastion city of Benghazi.

Aguila Saleh, the speaker of the Haftar-allied House of Representatives in Tobruk, has expressed support for the ceasefire initiative but Haftar rejected it, calling it a stunt aimed at catching the LNA off-guard. 

Misrata, home to some 500,000 people, is a main source of military power for the GNA. Troops from the city played a major role in the GNA’s series of military victories that forced Haftar’s forces out of western Libya and towards the east. 

“Some Libyans here say voting is the only solution to the conflict which has lasted years, but Haftar is removing elected city officials and issuing military orders to appoint their replacements,” Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina, reporting from Misrata, said.

“And with elections unlikely to be held in areas he controls, how and when the Libyan conflict will end remains unclear.”