In Libya, an election scheduled for December 24—the country’s first since 2014—will likely be delayed given that the Libyan High National Electoral Commission (HNEC) has ordered the dissolution of the nation’s electoral committees.
An internal document written by HNEC chairman Imad al-Sayeh on December 20 gave a list of six tasks to be completed, including “the disbandment of electoral regional and local branch offices and committees.” The dissolution of the committee makes it impossible for the country to hold an election in two days.
Libyan head of state Mohammad Younes Menfi, who is presently in Egypt, has not yet commented on al-Sayeh’s order.
While the situation in Tripoli, Libya’s capital, has not resulted in open violence between candidates, local observers described watching the deployment of different armed militia groups along roads south of the capital. The University of Tripoli was closed mid-session after an apparent security threat, according to the Agence France-Presse.
Even before al-Sayeh’s order to close the electoral committees, it appeared uncertain that the election would take place as scheduled. Several leading candidates, including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of longtime Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi, were disqualified from running. No official candidate list was finalized or provided to the public though. Disputes remain over the framework governing the election. Some of these disputes are over how long the election will be held for and what duties the elected president will ultimately have.
In light of these difficulties, Libya’s High State Council called for the elections to be delayed until February 2022.
Libya’s second civil war, which began after Qaddafi’s overthrow and execution, ended in October 2020 with the signing of a “permanent ceasefire.” A Government of National Unity was created to unify the two existing governments in Tripoli and Tobruk; so far, it has largely succeeded at keeping the war from resuming, although it has come under strain in Tobruk, which passed a no-confidence resolution against it in September.
The United Nations hoped the election would unify the governments in Tripoli and Tobruk and ensure legitimacy in the next Libyan leader, which might lead to the end of the country’s civil war. However, some UN officials have expressed concerns that the election’s losers could decline to recognize the results and resume the conflict. This scenario happened in 2014 when Islamist parties in Tripoli refused to recognize their loss in parliamentary elections, leading to violence.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.