US says Libya could postpone its elections

Senior US official says country likely to postpone presidential elections as it finalises candidate list

Security officers stand in front of the High National Election Commission building in Benghazi, Libya. Reuters
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A senior US official said on Friday that Libya may delay its long-awaited presidential elections scheduled for next week due to the controversial nature of some of the candidates.

The elections, scheduled for December 24, are intended to help foster a political resolution to Libya’s long-running civil war that has pitted the Tripoli-based government against a rival regime in the eastern half of the country.

“We have invested in the electoral process with an election scheduled for later this year,” the senior US official told reporters on a press call.

“It may slip a bit as they’re still finalising about 70 candidates on the list for president — a few of them quite controversial.”

About 100 candidates had initially signed up to run in the presidential elections, including Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, commander of the eastern Libyan forces, and Saif Al Islam Qaddafi, son of deposed dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

Libya’s High National Election Commission was initially scheduled to release its final candidate list earlier this month but has yet to do so, though the elections are now only a week away.

Despite the potential delay, the senior US official struck an optimistic note, citing “great international support” for the elections and the fact that about 2.5 million Libyans have registered to vote.

The US official said the voter registration rate “matches … just about any country you can point to".

The US Agency for International Development has also been working with the commission to bolster Libya’s electoral infrastructure before the vote.

That support includes voter registration assistance, election dispute resolution training and cybersecurity support as well as efforts to combat hate speech and misinformation on social media.

US Vice President Kamala Harris also attended a conference on Libya’s elections in Paris this year.

The UN has also named Stephanie Williams, a US diplomat, as its Libya election adviser.

Ms Williams travelled to Libya this week in a bid to help keep the elections on track.

Updated: December 17, 2021, 6:47 PM