The EU has warned that anyone deemed to be delaying elections in Libya beyond the scheduled date of December 24 will risk sanction, ahead of a major meeting of foreign ministers aimed at tightening the screws on those who obstruct elections or the withdrawal of foreign forces. forces of the country.
The Berlin meeting will set out our proposals for a coordinated and sequential withdrawal of foreign forces, mainly Russian and Turkish, and will re-convene elections at the end of the year. Previous deadlines for the withdrawal of foreign forces have been ignored.
The United Nations has also launched plans for a meeting in Geneva next week of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum to agree on the basis for the elections. Some in Libya’s current parliament have been blocking elections or demanding a referendum on any new Libyan constitution before the elections, which most European powers now see as a delaying tactic.
The Berlin conference will be attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and is a follow-up to a meeting in December 2020 that set out a detailed roadmap for Libya to lead the country towards democracy and put end to ten years of civil war.
A new national unity government spanning the east and west of the country was established as a breakthrough in February, but since then a number of political players have voiced their views on holding elections in December while privately seeking a delay. Many in today’s political class, described as Libyan oligarchs by their critics, fear the loss of power and money that any election would entail.
Lawyers for Justice in Libya has called on the conference to do more to protect human rights in the country and to hold accountable those who violate the UN arms embargo, including some countries that attended the first conference. He also warned that it is necessary to protect the rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association so that free elections can be held.
The existing parliament, the House of Representatives, whose mandate rests on an election held in 2014, has been a key source of delay, despite its president Aguila Saleh insisting that the elections are a prerequisite for national reconciliation.
The UN ordered parliament to accept the constitutional bases for the elections and adopt the necessary electoral legislation before July 1, which gave the country’s High National Electoral Commission enough time to prepare before the vote.
But instead, Libya has slowly fallen into a constitutional quagmire with disagreements over the constitution that would control any directly elected president.
Former Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga is the favorite to win the election, but there are rumors that Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, would also run.
In a sign that international pressure may have some effect on Libyan rivals, a military committee from the east and west finally agreed on terms for the reopening of a coastal highway between Sirte and Misrata.
The blockade on the Sirte road, in force since April 2019, had in effect become a military front between the two parties and has slowed the spread of a ceasefire agreed last October. But the reopening agreements last 15 days and can be a device for all parties to overcome the hurdle of the Berlin conference without facing sanctions.
The current Acting Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah claimed that the opening of the road was a historic day and he personally drove a bulldozer through some of the mounds blocking the road. Many doubt the current government wants to step aside in December, and Dabaiba has been trying to appease all factions by offering jobs and salaries.
No parallel progress has been made in removing foreign mercenaries from Libya, including the Russian-backed Wagner Group, Turkish government-backed mercenaries, and official Turkish forces. A staggered timetable for the withdrawal has been proposed, but it requires the cooperation of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.
Turkey claims its forces were invited to Libya by the previous UN-recognized government. Due to the initial invitation, Turkey says it has no legal or moral obligation to leave, even though current Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush has repeatedly called on all foreign forces to leave the country. Some argue that elections before the removal of the militia will be impossible, as intimidation and fraud will be widespread.
Mangoush will present a stability initiative at the Berlin conference. Turkey’s exports to Libya have risen 50% in the first four months of 2021, and Libya, rich in oil but vastly underdeveloped due to political chaos, represents a potential bonanza for any country looking to invest.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism