Libya faces several obstacles ahead of the elections in December as the attitudes and actions of some international actors contribute to the country's instability.
Libya has been struggling for the past 10 years with the dream of holding a free and fair election leading to the formation of a democratic government.
After 42 years of dictatorship, the dream of a democratic setup in the war-ravaged country has been elusive due to a number of factors including a decade-long internal conflict and foreign intervention.
Over the past decade the country has experienced war crimes committed by elements supported by countries like France, Egypt the UAE and Russia.
The UN-sponsored Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) took place in the first weeks of 2021 to form a transitional government that will take Libya to elections on December 24.
One can argue that this development might not have been possible had Turkey not extended its support to the UN-backed Government of National Accord against warlord Khalifa Haftar’s attacks on Tripoli.
Now, the question is, whether it is actually possible for elections to take place leading to the formation of a democratic administration in Libya while there are so many international and local actors with competing agendas.
At first, the overwhelming majority of people had high hopes for a successful election, but now with only seven weeks until the vote, experts no longer seem certain.
Talking to TRT World, Abdulkader Assad, the chief editor of The Libya Observer and Libya Alahrar English, says Libya is in a very tight position.
“There is relative stability but everyone is on tenterhooks about the holding of the elections because, without the vote, war and division could make a return,” Assad tells.
Uncertainty on rise
Another expert, Sami Hamdi who is the Managing Director of the International Interest, a global risk and intelligence company, says the atmosphere is uncertain.
“It is clear that the international community is insistent on elections taking place, and are impressing upon the parties that they will not tolerate spoilers. This is why we are seeing more and more candidates declaring their candidacy. Yet, the issue has never been elections. Rather, it is what happens after the elections and whether the ‘losers’ will accept the results or go to war to overturn them,” Hamdi tells TRT World.
In the last few weeks, several presidential candidates have stepped in to announce their candidacies. However, experts also believe that the announcements made by the same faces is one of the biggest challenges to free elections.
“Libya is supposed to be heading toward a new democratic phase, where the people get to choose a president, a very important transition after 10 years of fragmentation, yet the list of candidates includes former ministers and officials, some war criminals like Khalifa Haftar and his backers and some foreign-agenda-driven persons like Aref Al-Nayed, UAE's man in Libya,” Assad said.
According to Hamdi, the elections would be a game-changer for political dynamics in Libya.
“Washington is particularly keen to see them succeed this time irrespective of the results. This sentiment appears to be shared by Libya’s political actors who are choosing to run individually as opposed to under a coalition that might preserve the interests of their respective ‘camps’."
"Aguila Saleh is competing with Haftar. Dbeibah is expected to compete with Bashagha. Each of these candidates believes that the elections will offer a unique power and legitimacy superior to that provided by their respective ‘camps’,” Hamdi told TRT World.
On Monday, Head of the Libyan High Council of State Khalid Al-Mishri said there are some countries that don't want stability in Libya and are creating obstacles by issuing inapplicable laws or laws that can't bring acceptable results.
"The election laws on the table now weren't issued by the House of Representatives alone, rather they were devised in Cairo, and Paris under the supervision of Abu Dhabi, in addition to the malign efforts of UNSMIL," he said.
Al-Mishri also claimed that even some of The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) employees are working in violation of Security Council resolutions, despite the envoy's efforts to commit to them.
“Some UNSMIL employees are working as informants for foreign intelligence services and are trying to send a message that the High Council of State and House of Representatives won't reach consensus and thus UNSMIL should back the latter's legislations, which were written in foreign capitals," Al Mishri added.
Conference on Libya
Commenting on France’s recent attempt to organise a conference on Libya ahead of elections, Assad believes that “Paris has felt left out lately with the GNU becoming closer to the US and breaking away from European stakeholders like France and Italy, regarding politics.”
“Paris is so hopeful that holding an international conference, in the presence of Libya, would shift attention back to its role as a major stakeholder in the settlement process,” Assad said.
On the other hand, Hamdi believes France is keen to remain relevant in any foreign policy debate, particularly in North Africa.
“The conference is primarily a show of force that Paris is still relevant, still influential and major power. The GNU is refusing to participate because it sees the conference as a means of legitimising Haftar who plans to run for the presidency,” Hamdi added.
Expressing his pessimism, Assad tells TRT World that “Russia, the UAE, France and Egypt will try their best to impede elections and create hindrances before December 24.”
“They are already working with Haftar and HoR Speaker, Aguila Saleh in the east to create some kind of political split and anti-western region sentiment,” Assad said.
“If their efforts don’t pay off and elections are held on time, the most obvious move is that they, particularly the UAE, will not accept anyone from outside their camp to be elected. They might also attempt to use conflict and division rhetoric to create chaos and keep Libya away from democracy as long as possible,” he added.