By Janet Ekstract
ISTANBUL- UN Special Envoy Stephanie Williams met with key military leaders in Libya on Thursday afternoon in the port city of Sirte – a meeting that took place hours after an Islamic militia group ended its siege of interim government headquarters in Tripoli. Tensions have been building in Libya due to the fact that rival factions and numerous militias have conflicting agendas for upcoming presidential elections set to take place on December 24.
Proof of just how bad tensions have gotten is evident in a video statement issued late Wednesday by Islamist militia commander Salah Badie where he threatened to scrap December 24 elections. He also threatened to throw Williams out of Libya. Several days ago, the head of Libya’s High National Election Commission, Emad al-Sayah told the press that preparations for the election are continuing on schedule. He added that he is committed to the Libyan people and political leaders to make sure his committee holds free and fair elections where the rights of all parties involved are respected.
Controversy remains over a multitude of foreign fighters and mercenaries still in Libya. Both Turkey and Russia refuse to withdraw their respective forces. While Turkey insists it was invited in by the previous UN-backed government in a signed agreement to provide training and assistance for its military, Russia maintains its Wagner Group in the region and its influence is prominent.
A factor to be reckoned with is the fact that the current interim government has made no direct efforts to get rid of the military presence in Libya. Analysts and observers insist that if upcoming presidential elections are not monitored by the international community then Libya risks falling back into a militia-style rule of law. It doesn’t help that two notorious Libyans were approved for the presidential ballot despite the fact that both have been accused of war crimes. Both strongman and eastern Libya commander Khalifa Haftar and Saif al-Islam, the second son of deceased dictator Moammar Gaddafi have made waves in Tripoli. Gaddafi was threatened at gunpoint and told he could not run on the ballot .
Experts on Libya and in the region are predicting that elections will not go ahead as scheduled due to major rifts about the candidate list. The UN-led process to get Libya to the point of elections is a delicate one to be sure but it also presents an opportunity for Libyans to vote in possibly the first election that is slated to be “free” and “fair.” But due to the current tensions mounting in the North African country, the chances of a truly fair election is moving from slim to none