There is still no final candidate list ahead of elections which is bringing the whole exercise into question.
There is just one week left before Libya’s long-awaited elections but the country is facing massive challenges which could lead to chaos.
The approval of Russia-backed Saif Al Islam Gaddafi’s candidacy, lack of a constitutional basis for elections and unilaterally passed electoral laws by the pro-Haftar Head of Tobruk-based House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, have officials stating that elections are likely to be postponed.
Abu Bakr Marda, who is a member of the High National Elections Commission (HNEC), on Thursday said presidential and parliamentary elections on December 24 have become a thing of the past as the commission has not yet officially announced the final candidate list.
Previously, several officials including Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah and Head of Libya’s High Council of State, Khalid al-Mishri stressed the need to delay elections to provide a constitutional basis and to agree on commonly accepted electoral laws.
On the other hand, armed groups loyal to the warlord Khalifa Haftar on Tuesday started attacking police officers in Sabha, an oasis city in southwestern Libya, violating the ceasefire formally signed in October 2020.
Sami Hamdi, Managing Director of The International Interest, a global risk and intelligence company, tells TRT World that the matter of delaying elections has become one of 'when'; not 'if'.
“Yet, the US ambassador to Libya only yesterday tweeted a reiteration of US support for the elections, suggesting that Washington still has expectations for the time being that the elections it has imposed on the Libyans will go ahead,” he said.
He adds that militias are “already flexing across Libya” and that conflict is a distinct possibility.
The recent move by militias came after the meeting between the Libyan Army’s Chief of Staff, Muhammad Al-Haddad, and commander of Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army, Abdel Razel Al-Nadori last Saturday.
It’s the first time the two have engaged in talks at this level and stressed the need of a permanent ceasefire while stressing the importance of respecting the territorial integrity of the homeland, militias loyal to Haftar started an operation in Sebha.
According to Hamdi, it is unclear if the attack in Sabha is part of a coordinated military campaign or a clash of local groups with ties to Haftar on one side, and Tripoli on the other.
“Haftar does not need to 'spoil' these elections. He believes that the militias of Tripoli will do that for him instead,” he added.
“I think there is still an insistence on elections by France and the US. France believes Haftar can win, and the US wants to accelerate the political process. Haftar does not mind the elections as he can wield his military force to influence results in his favour.”
On the other hand, Russia-backed Saif Al Islam Gaddafi’s candidacy has paved the way for another debate as it has stirred concerns in pro-Haftar fronts as well as the rest of Libya.
“Saif Gaddafi is also a wildcard. I think the reality is that the groups of Tripoli have much more to fear from these elections than Haftar, and that is why they are the most vocal in their opposition to elections which are unlikely to be free and fair in any case,” Hamdi told TRT World.