Delaying Libya elections could mean risk of partition, says UN envoy

Country fast approaching one year since poll was delayed as rival governments look to grab power amid fragile truce

Libyan army forces in Tripoli. The country's current political crisis originated from the failure to hold elections in December 2021. AP
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The new UN special envoy for Libya warned on Tuesday that the first anniversary of delayed elections is quickly approaching and further postponement could “put the country at risk of partition”.

Abdoulaye Bathily told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that while a ceasefire has held since October 2020, escalating rhetoric and a build-up of forces by rival governments in the country’s east and west threatens the fragile truce.

“Further prolonging the interim period will make the country even more vulnerable to political, economic and security instability and could put the country at risk of partition,” he said.

“All parties must refrain from any steps that could undermine the ceasefire.”

Libya’s High Council of State accused an “armed militia affiliated with [Prime Minister] Abdul Hamid Dbeibah” of preventing them from holding a council session in Tripoli on Monday.

Libya's current political crisis originated from the failure to hold elections in December 2021 and the refusal of Mr Dbeibah, who led a transitional government in Tripoli, to step down.

In response, the country’s east-based parliament appointed a rival prime minister, Fathi Bashagha, who has for months sought to install his government in Tripoli.

UN Special Representative for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily told the council that Libyans hope 'for peace, stability and legitimate institutions'.  AFP

Mr Bashagha, a former interior minister who was chosen as prime minister by the parliament in February, tried to enter Tripoli in May, triggering violence that killed at least one person.

Mr Bathily, a former Senegalese minister and diplomat who arrived in Libya in mid-October and has been travelling all over the country, told the council that he found Libyans hope “for peace, stability and legitimate institutions”.

“However, there is an increasing recognition that some institutional players are actively hindering progress towards elections,” he said.

A plan to hold an election last December collapsed amid arguments among major factions and prominent candidates. The dispute involved rules governing the elections and the legitimacy of the parliament.

Updated: November 16, 2022, 7:52 AM