Libya’s upper house calls for elections to be delayed for a year

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The upper house of Libya’s parliament called Monday for presidential elections set for December to be postponed for a year following a controversy over an electoral law.

Under a UN-brokered deal between Libya’s rival eastern and western camps, the war-torn country is scheduled to hold legislative and presidential polls on December 24.

Earlier this month, eastern-based House of Representatives speaker Aguila Saleh ratified a law for the presidential vote, but he has come under fire for not presenting a final version to the assembly for a vote.

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Critics charge that Saleh was trying to push through legislation favoring his eastern ally, military general Khalifa Haftar.

On Monday, the head of the Tripoli-based High Council of State (HCS), Khalid al-Mishri, rejected legislation which he said had been passed “without a legal vote or consensus.”

“We do not recognize the House of Representatives as having passed a presidential elections law,” Khalid al-Mishri told journalists.

Presidential elections “would not produce stability in Libya at the present time,” al-Mishri added.

He said the HCS proposed parliamentary elections on December 24 as agreed at the UN talks, but with another year to reach agreement on a new constitution before setting a date for presidential polls.

“Our hands reach out for dialogue, but the HoR (lower house) can’t simply pass laws on its own,” al-Mishri said.

Critics of Saleh’s move have pointed to a clause stipulating that military officials may stand in presidential polls on condition they withdraw from their posts three months beforehand.

That would allow for a presidential run by Haftar, whose forces control eastern Libya, where the parliament is based, as well as parts of the south.

Haftar reached a UN-brokered ceasefire with western Libyan forces last October after a year-long assault on the capital that had left thousands dead.

A year-long lull in violence and a UN-led transition process have sparked hopes that Libya could move on after a decade of violence that followed the fall and killing of former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi.

But analysts have warned that multiple obstacles including failure to agree on an electoral law and the presence of foreign forces on both sides could still scupper chances for peace.

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