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Forum approves path to Libyan elections

A U.N.-backed Libyan forum voted to authorize a new way of choosing a transitional government that will hold nationwide elections in late December.

Libyans at Tripoli's old city and Red Castle in February 2020
Libyans at Tripoli's old city and Red Castle in February 2020 (AN/Ziad Fhema)

GENEVA (AN) — A United Nations-backed forum representing Libya's warring sides on Tuesday overwhelmingly authorized a new way of choosing a transitional government to hold nationwide elections in late December.

The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum voted 51-19 to approve an advisory committee's plan for selecting a unified executive authority based on a meeting days earlier in Geneva, the U.N. Support Mission in Libya, or UNSMIL, said.

That meant 73% of those voting favored the plan — well above the 63% of those participating in the vote that the advisory committee agreed should be the minimum threshold for passage — with the remaining members of the 75-person forum abstaining or otherwise declining to take part.

The forum represents all three main regions of Libya, which has been split between rival governments and militias vying for power and oil since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising deposed and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Libya’s two main warring factions agreed in November to hold nationwide elections for the presidency and parliament on December 24, 2021, with the aim of creating an effective and unified government. The scheduled date for elections is a public holiday that carries symbolic importance because it is the 70th anniversary of Libya declaring its independence from Britain and France in 1951.

The agreement was made between the military coalition of renegade general Khalifa Haftar, who took control of lands in the east and south, and forces loyal to Libya’s prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, and his U.N.-backed Government of National Accord.

It was reached at U.N.-brokered talks held near the Tunisian capital, Tunis, as a follow-up on the cease-fire agreement signed at the United Nations’ European headquarters in October that also required the withdrawal of military forces sent by Russia, Turkey and other regional powers.

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, Haftar’s main supporters, supplied his forces with arms as he blockaded oil exports. Turkey sent arms and troops to the U.N.-backed government in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, also supported by Italy and Qatar.

'A genuine opportunity'

Stephanie Williams, the U.N. acting special envoy for Libya, noted the progress made since a year ago when Germany hosted the heads of Libya’s two main warring factions and leaders of 11 nations at U.N.-supported talks in Berlin, where they agreed to set up a cease-fire committee and respect a widely ignored arms embargo.

The talks in Berlin had included al-Sarraj, Haftar and representatives of the African Union, Algeria, Arab League, Britain, China, Egypt, European Commission and Council, France, Italy, Congo Republic, Russia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

"With this vote, LPDF members took a significant step forward towards the implementation of the roadmap adopted in Tunis in mid-November," Williams, an American diplomat who is a special representative of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, said of the prospect of nationwide elections.

"Libyans have now a genuine opportunity to move past their differences and divisions (and to) select a temporary government to reunify their institutions through the long-awaited democratic national elections," she said.

UNSMIL also said it is still putting the finishing touches on the nomination procedure and forms and a timeline for the voting process, with an LPDF committee in charge of verifying the submissions "to ensure full transparency."