Delegates fail to agree on legal basis for Libya elections

CAIRO (AP) — Libyan delegates failed to agree on a legal framework to hold presidential and parliamentary elections later this year, the U.N. said Saturday, putting an agreed-upon roadmap to end the conflict there in jeopardy.

The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, a 75-member body from all walks of life in Libya, concluded its five days of talks in a hotel outside Geneva on Friday, the U.N. support mission in Libya said.

Participants in the U.N.-brokered talks discussed several proposals for a constitutional basis for the elections, including some that were not consistent with the roadmap that set the vote on Dec. 24. Others sought to establish preconditions to hold elections as planned, the mission said.

The U.N. mission said the LPDF members have created a committee tasked with bridging the gap among the proposals put before the forum. But the deadlock remained.

“It is regrettable,” said Raisedon Zenenga, the mission’s coordinator. “The people of Libya will certainly feel let down as they still aspire to the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights in presidential and parliamentary elections on December 24.”

The mission urged forum members to continue consultations to agree on “a workable compromise and cement what unites them.” It warned that proposals which “do not make the elections feasible and possible to hold elections on 24 December will not be entertained.”

“This is not the outcome that many of us had hoped for, but it is the better outcome given the options that were on the table,” Elham Saudi, a forum member, wrote on Twitter. “This only delays the battle, but does not resolve the issues.”

Over two dozen LPDF members criticized the U.N. mission for its proposal that the forum vote on suggestions that included keeping the current government in power, and only holding legislative elections.

Richard Norland, the U.S. special envoy for Libya, accused “several members” of the forum of apparently trying to insert “poison pills” to ensure elections will not happen “either by prolonging the constitutional process or by creating new conditions that must be met for elections to occur.”

“We hope the 75 Libyans in the LPDF will re-dedicate themselves to allowing the 7 million Libyans throughout the country to have a voice in shaping Libya’s future,” he said.

Christian Buck, director of Middle East and North Africa at the German Foreign Ministry, urged the LPDF members to stick to the roadmap to elections in December.

“Any postponement would open doors to dangerous scenarios,” he tweeted, without elaborating.

The government, led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, was appointed by the forum earlier this year in a vote mired in corruption allegations. Its main mandate is to prepare the country for December elections in hopes of stabilizing the divided nation.

Libya has been plagued by corruption and turmoil since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. In recent years, the country was split between a U.N.-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the country’s east.

Each side was backed by armed groups and foreign governments. The U.N. estimated in December there were at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Turkish troops, Syrians, Russians, Sudanese and Chadians.

In April 2019, east-based commander Khalifa Hifter and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive to try to capture Tripoli. Hifter’s 14-month campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the U.N.-backed government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.

An October cease-fire agreement led to a deal on the December elections and a transitional government that took office in February. The deal included a demand that all foreign fighters and mercenaries leave Libya within 90 days, but that demand has yet to be met.

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