Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States on Friday urged war-torn Libya to quickly set a new date for delayed presidential elections.
“We call on the relevant Libyan authorities to respect the aspirations of the Libyan people for prompt elections by swiftly determining a final date for the polling and issuing the final list of presidential candidates without delay,” said a joint statement from five nations.
The authorities overseeing Libya’s first presidential election said earlier this week holding it on Friday as scheduled would be “impossible.”
The vote was intended to mark a fresh start for the oil-rich North African country, a year after a landmark ceasefire and more than a decade after its 2011 revolt that toppled and killed former leader Muammar Gaddafi.
But speculation of a delay had been mounting for weeks. There were bitter disputes over the vote’s legal basis, the powers of the winner and the candidacies of several deeply divisive figures.
On Wednesday, the chairman of the parliamentary committee overseeing the vote wrote to the assembly’s speaker saying that “after consulting the technical, judicial and security reports, we inform you of the impossibility of holding the elections on the date of December 24, 2021”
It did not propose an alternative to Friday, a date set last year during UN-led peace talks in Tunis.
The country’s electoral commission, the HNEC, later Wednesday suggested delaying the vote to January 24.
Libya’s parliament is to meet on Monday to debate a new timeline for elections.
The election, intended to go hand-in-hand with parliamentary polls, was part of a United Nations-led peace process, yet UN special envoy Jan Kubis resigned just weeks before the ballot.
One point of contention was a presidential elections law controversially passed by speaker Aguila Saleh, which critics say bypassed due process and favored a run by his ally, eastern military chief Khalifa Haftar.
Another candidate is Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam – a divisive symbol of the old regime wanted by the International Criminal Court over war crimes allegations.
Libya has seen a year of relative calm since the October 2020 ceasefire following a year-long offensive by Haftar’s forces on Tripoli, with both sides backed by foreign states.
But with vast stockpiles of weapons left behind by the Gaddafi regime, the potential for new fighting in Libya remains ever-present.
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