FILE PHOTO: A security officer stands in front of the High National Election Commission building in Benghazi, Libya December 16, 2021 Photograph:( Reuters )
Postponement of elections may put internationally backed peace process in jeopardy. The peace process is being seen to be critical to end a decade of chaos in Libya
Libyan parliament on Friday said that presidential elections would not go ahead. This has created fresh political instability in a country that has been ravaged by wars since erstwhile dictator Muammar Gaddafi was deposed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011. Postponement of elections may bring internationally-backed peace process into trouble and doubts may be raised on the fate of the interim government.
Libya's electoral commission proposed postponement of the elections by a month. The delay was widely expected as there were disputes over rules of the election including eligibility of several divisive candidates.
Disagreements showed the limitations of a winner-takes-all presidential vote involving candidates viewed as unacceptable in large parts of the country, including the son of the late ruler Muammar Gaddafi and a military leader who assaulted Tripoli.
At stake is a peace process that had been seen as the best hope in years of bringing an end to the decade of chaos and violence that has engulfed Libya since a NATO-backed uprising ousted Gaddafi in 2011.
Large numbers of Libyans had already registered for voting cards for the election in what politicians on all sides in Libya have said is a sign of strong popular desire for a vote. The U.S. ambassador on Wednesday said work towards elections should remain a priority.
However, with mobilisations in Tripoli and other western areas by armed groups, the collapse of the electoral process risks aggravating local disputes and triggering a new round of fighting.
Disputes over the path forward could also undo the wider U.N.-backed peace process between Libya's main eastern and western camps that have maintained a ceasefire since last year.
Renewed conflict could also lead to more frequent or extensive shutdowns in oil output by armed groups, hitting state finances. A group this week closed down three major fields.
Some figures in the east have warned of a new breakaway government that would return Libya to the division between warring administrations that lasted from the last election in 2014 until the installation of the current interim government.
Turkey and regional adversaries that backed opposing sides in Libya have improved relations recently, easing the risk they will drive a return to war through local proxies, analysts say.
(With inputs from agencies)