Elections on 24 December… What Prospects?
Prospects for holding national elections this December are bleak. The House of Representatives (HoR) and the High Council of State (HCS) failed to produce the constitutional basis and election laws as required. Aguila Saleh, HoR president, in violation of the roadmap and the Libyan Political Agreement, is unilaterally working on a redistricting plan and election law, threatening to form a new government, and demanding the dissolution of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF). Haftar insists on not being bound by any authority. The LPDF, having been put on the backburner by UNSMIL in favor of HoR, failed to break this impasse because UNSMIL would not allow the use of the voting mechanism used to remedy a similar deadlock in selecting the new executive authority. In this conflictive and distrustful political environment, and with time running out, UNSMIL is groping for answers while grappling with internal dissonance and a perplexing mediation strategy.
Those who have first-hand experience with the current political bodies and personalities will confirm few ideas, which we need to understand if we want a way out of this bind.
- Haftar, Aguila, HoR, and HCS see elections as a gamble that cannot guarantee or enhance their current position. Others see a failure to hold elections as an opportunity to bring down the unity government and share the spoils which come with forming a new one. Some are leery that hardly anyone is addressing whether the responsible authorities will be able to conduct “free, fair, inclusive, and credible” elections as called by the Berlin outcomes.
- Aguila wants his attempt to unilaterally produce the constitutional basis and election laws to eat up time and make elections even more improbable. He knows that what he is doing violates all previous agreements and that the opposing parties will reject them. For some reason, some in the international community are willing to play along.
- The silly talk about having presidential elections in a developing country that has been, and continues to be, without a constitution for over half a century and has never had a president in its history must stop. Most importantly, outside of a proper constitutional process, no one has the right to decide on a presidential system of government. Not Berlin, not the security council, not the HoR/HCS, and not the LPDF. In a country nursing a fragile military-political truce, gambling on a zero-sum presidential competition is a disaster waiting to happen.
With local actors continuing to intensify their provocative rhetoric and actions while blaming each other, time is running out, and the international community must act to avert a potential collapse of the political process. In particular, the international community must:
- Help UNSMIL with its organizational difficulties and rationalize/streamline its mediation strategy. Significant changes in the current leadership are neither possible nor advisable. UNSMIL needs to speak with one voice and work as a cohesive body before the mission loses credibility and domestic actors lose faith in its mediation role.
- Encourage UNSMIL and local actors to decouple presidential and parliamentary elections. The international community must also urge UNSMIL to allow the LPDF to utilize the voting mechanism it developed and used previously to break the deadlock around the selection of the executive authority. With more than sufficient votes already in place, such a move will facilitate holding parliamentary elections on time. Replacing the dysfunctional HoR/HCS with a new parliament is long overdue and will surely be welcomed by the public.
- Impress upon all that obstructing the political process and elections is not a rewarding proposition and that merely replacing one executive authority with another will not be accepted without fresh elections.
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