Libya urged to 'swiftly' set new date for postponed historic presidential election

UK, US, France, Germany and Italy said they would stand by interim government

A local newspaper carries a report on the postponement of Libya's presidential elections that had been scheduled for Friday. AFP
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Libya has been urged by western powers to quickly reschedule the delayed presidential elections that were scheduled to take place on Friday.

Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the US said they would continue to recognise Libya's interim government after its presidential election was delayed, but called for the new polling date to be set as soon as possible.

“We call on the relevant Libyan authorities to respect the aspirations of the Libyan people for prompt elections by swiftly determining a final date for the polling and issuing the final list of presidential candidates without delay,” the five nations said in a joint statement.

The vote was intended to mark a fresh start for the country.

Political wrangling over the legal framework governing the vote, a surge in militia fighting, polarising candidates and years-long divisions between Libyans have complicated the process.

The fate of the interim Government of National Unity, which was installed in March as part of a UN-backed peace process, has become a major source of disagreement in the fallout over the collapse of the election.

Authorities overseeing the election said earlier this week that the Friday vote would be “impossible”, ending weeks of speculation over a delay.

The chairman of the parliamentary committee overseeing the vote wrote to the assembly's speaker, saying that “after consulting the technical, judicial and security reports, we inform you of the impossibility of holding the elections on the date of December 24, 2021".

It did not propose an alternative date, which was set last year during UN-led peace talks in Tunis. UN special envoy Jan Kubis, however, resigned just weeks before the ballot with the election intended to go hand-in-hand with parliamentary polls.

Libya's parliament is to meet on Monday to debate a new timeline for elections.

The country has seen a year of relative calm since the October 2020 ceasefire though rival militias were seen roaming the streets of the capital on Wednesday.

About 2.5 million people – a third of the population – were due to choose Libya’s first elected president on December 24.

Since Nato’s intervention to remove Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, Libya has been the theatre of international and regional feuds, hosting foreign personnel aligned with the clashing governments in the east and west.

With a spectre of renewed conflict already looming, militias have started to flex their muscles, breaching a UN-brokered ceasefire that began in October last year.

Updated: December 25, 2021, 7:20 AM