Libya’s interim PM Dbeibah calls for new constitution before elections

Country’s rival western and eastern power centres are at odds over path to holding delayed polls

Libya’s interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, sitting right, attends a military graduation ceremony in Tripoli with Lt Gen Mohammad Ali Al Haddad, chief of the general staff of the Libyan army, on January 23, 2022. AFP
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Libya’s interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, has called for a constitution to be established before postponed presidential and parliamentary elections are held.

“Now, more than ever, we need a constitution that protects the country and its citizens, and that governs the elections,” he said on Sunday.

Libya collapsed into years of violence after the 2011 removal and killing of dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who scrapped the country’s constitution in 1969.

Rival power bases and administrations arose in the country’s east and west.

After a landmark ceasefire in 2020, elections were scheduled for December 24 last year under a UN-led process.

But the polls were postponed after months of tension concerning divisive candidates and a disputed legal framework.

Libyans “want free elections that respect their will, not the extension of the crisis with a new transition”, Mr Dbeibah told a symposium in the capital Tripoli, The Constitution First.

“Our problem today is the absence of a constitutional base or of a constitution,” he said.

The event brought together prominent figures from Libya’s west.

They included Khaled El Mechri, who leads the High Council of State.

The Tripoli-based body is equivalent to Libya’s senate and rivals the House of Representatives, in the eastern city of Tobruk.

“Certain parties have worsened the crisis” with “tailor-made” laws favouring certain candidates over others, Mr Dbeibah said, a reference to House speaker Aguila Saleh’s decision in September to ratify a contentious electoral law.

Critics said the move bypassed due process and favoured a bid by Mr Saleh’s ally, the eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar.

Mr Dbeibah, Mr Saleh and Mr Haftar all put their names forward for the presidential vote.

On Sunday, Daou Al Mansouri, an official from the elected commission that is in charge of drafting a new constitution, told the symposium the body had submitted a draft constitution to the House in July 2017.

The draft was supposed to be put to a referendum but this was never organised.

On Tuesday, Mr Saleh proposed establishing a new commission of Libyan and foreign experts to draw up a new draft constitution.

He also called for the creation of a new interim government and said a “definitive” date for the postponed polls must be set by the end of this month.

Updated: January 23, 2022, 6:27 PM