Libya registers 98 candidates for presidential election in December

More than two million Libyans have registered to vote in the poll on December 24

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Two women have joined the race to become Libya's next president, in a field of 98 candidates including prominent political figures, the country’s electoral commission said on Tuesday.

Registrations closed late on Monday.

UN special envoy Jan Kubis praised the process and urged rival factions to ensure the vote goes ahead as planned next month.

As part of the UN-backed peace process, presidential and parliamentary elections are set to be held on December 24, but there has been no broad agreement on the law to govern the vote.

The leader of the National Movement Party in Libya, Laila Ben Khalifa, registered as a candidate. Hunaida Al Mahdi who is a researcher in social sciences, is the other woman vying to be president.

Among the prominent candidates are Aguila Saleh, Speaker of the eastern-based parliament, the eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar, who led fighting against the government in Tripoli, Saif Al Islam Qaddafi, son of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Fathi Bashagha, a former interior minister with the western-based government and former prime minister Ali Zeidan.

Disputes between rival factions and political entities have centred on who should be allowed to enter the race, meaning that even with just weeks to go there is no clarity on whether the poll will actually take place. Other challenges facing the long-awaited vote include infighting among armed groups and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and troops.

Since 2011, the country has been plagued by unrest following the uprising, with Nato support, that toppled Muammar Qaddafi. For years, Libya has been split between rival administrations in the country's east and west.

“Ninety-eight presidential candidates have officially been registered,” said Libya’s electoral commission when the sign-up period ended.

The electoral body said it would announce the final tally of registered candidates who have been accepted to run later on Tuesday.

Out of the 98 candidates, 73 registered at the centre in the capital of Tripoli, 12 registered in Benghazi and 13 registered in Sabha, it said.

More than 2.8 million of Libya's seven million population have registered to vote.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 candidates have submitted their nominations for the parliamentary elections, said the commission.

But many observers gave warnings that some candidates may pull out closer to the time due to agreements made to secure other public offices, or seats in parliament.

Mr Kubis stressed the importance of holding the elections as planned, calling on all Libyans to vote and accept the results.

The UN envoy's message came during a meeting with the vice-president of the Libyan Presidential Council, Abdullah Al Lafi, on Monday.

“Libya's current situation is very sensitive,” he said. He added that the judiciary will look into possible objections against any candidates.

Mr Kubis said he would convey different views and observations regarding the elections to the Security Council in his briefing on Wednesday.

The head of the High National Election Commission expressed optimism about the turnout in the elections.

Updated: November 23, 2021, 1:56 PM