The UN special envoy for Libya warned that a failure to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on December 24 could renew division and conflict and thwart efforts to unite the oil-rich North African nation after a decade of turmoil.
Jan Kubis told the UN Security Council that “aborting the drive for elections will be for many be a signal that violence is the only path to power in the country”.
UN-sponsored peace talks brought about a cease-fire last October between rival governments in Libya’s east and west and installed an interim government that is expected to lead the country into December elections, but the Libyan parliament has failed to finalise a legal framework for voting to take place.
Mr Kubis said the House of Representatives adopted the presidential electoral law, and he was told it is in the process of finalising the electoral law for parliamentary elections.
He said the High Council of State, an executive institution that among other duties proposes electoral laws, complained that the presidential electoral law was adopted without consulting its members.
“The country and its people need a full clarity that the elections are going to happen on December 24,” Mr Kubis said in a video briefing.
“The existing uncertainty creates a fertile ground for spoilers and skeptics to manipulate the situation against the political transition, feeding in the existing tensions in relations between diverse Libyan institutions and authorities.”
He stressed that holding elections, “even in less than ideal situation, and with all imperfections, challenges and risks is much more desirable than no elections that could only foster division, instability and conflict”.
Many Security Council members also called for elections to take place on December 24, the date decided by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, a 75-member body from all walks of life, and endorsed by the Security Council.
France’s UN ambassador Nicolas De Riviere called on all Libyan leaders “to assume their responsibilities to complete this process on time and to rise to the challenge”.
He said: “France will support any Libyan decision supported by the United Nations to clarify the legal basis for holding the elections.”
US deputy ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis said “The parties need to agree on a constitutional and legal framework for elections, urgently.”
While it is fortunate that work is progressing, he said: “we urge maximum efforts to consult and secure broad consensus.”
Libya has been wracked by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and split the country between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities loyal to commander Khalifa Hifter in the east.
Each have been backed by different armed groups and foreign governments.
Mr Hifter launched a military offensive in 2019 to capture the capital, a campaign backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and France.
But his march on Tripoli ultimately failed in June 2020 after Turkey sent troops to support the government, which also had the backing of Qatar and Italy.
This paved the way for the October ceasefire agreement.
Mr Kubis urged Libya’s rivals “to join forces and ensure inclusive, free, fair parliamentary and presidential elections, which are to be seen as the essential step in further stabilising and uniting Libya”.
He said more than 500,000 new voters have recently registered, bringing the total to over 2.8 million, 40% of them women.
Most of the new voters are under 30 years old, he said, “a clear testament to the young generation’s eagerness to take part in determining the fate of their country through a democratic process”.
Mr Kubis said Libya needs to move “beyond the state of paralysing perpetual crisis and conflict and perennial transition” to build a united, stable and secure country that can focus on development.
He stressed that elections are “a political and security necessity ensuring that the positive developments achieved in Libya since October 2020 continue”.
The October ceasefire continues to hold, Mr Kubis said, but the continued presence of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces who were supposed to leave under its provisions “remains a cause of grave concern for Libya and the international community”.
To support implementation of the cease-fire, Mr Kubis said the UN is continuing preparations to deploy the first group of 10 UN ceasefire monitors and support staff “in the coming days”.
With just over 100 days until December 24, the UN envoy urged all countries and regional organisations to send election observers “in order to help ensure integrity and credibility of the electoral process and acceptability of the results”.