By Janet Ekstract
ISTANBUL- With four days to go before presidential and parliamentary elections are set to take place in Libya, analysts and experts on the region have expressed skepticism about whether elections will actually go ahead as scheduled on December 24. The reasons are numerous and include opposite factions’ disagreement on candidates as well as questioning the legal procedures in the election process. Two wild card candidates include warlord and commander of the Libya National Army LNA) Khalifa Haftar. Haftar was investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on accusations of genocide while his repeated attempts to overthrow the UN-backed government in Tripoli, rattled the international community. Former dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi’s second son, Saif al-Islam was granted permission to run on the presidential ballot by the courts in Libya despite the fact that he was threatened at gunpoint by militia to step down. He is also wanted by the ICC on charges of war crimes and there are a number of factions who oppose his candidacy.
A plethora of analysts and experts on the region view these issues as a stumbling block to fair elections being held on December 24. Another major concern are the mercenaries and foreign fighters that continue to remain in Libya despite the international community, the UN and the US administration calling for their complete withdrawal which was part of an agreement signed a year ago by a multitude of regional actors who pledged they would withdraw their forces in a bid for Libya to move toward a democratic process in its governance.
Meanwhile, former US envoy to Libya, Jonathan Winer weighed in on the situation, commenting that he thinks controversial candidates should not be permitted to run in the elections. Winer said that his expectation is that the elections will be postponed for a limited time while procedures that have been called into question by various groups, are ironed out.
The former US envoy told Alhurra TV – a US-based public Arabic language satellite TV channel that only broadcasts to the Middle East and North Africa – that elections will happen when the international community tells all Libyan parties that it is time to move forward with the Libyan people’s choice for their president. Winer lauded the work of the UN adviser on Libya, Stephanie Williams in her resolve to find a solution to the crisis in the North African nation – especially after the resignation of Jan Kubis two weeks ago.
For her part, Williams met several days ago with major players in the election process including the current interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Debeibah who is also on the ballot running for president. On December 14, Williams reiterated UN support for holding elections in Libya as the sole path to achieving a peaceful transition of power for a secure and stable democratic state. Currently, the spokesman for the House of Representatives (HoR), Abdullah Bliheq stated that the HoR committee responsible for following up on the electoral process and for communicating with the High National Elections Commission and the Supreme Judicial Council has completed its work. Bliheq said that a review of the committee’s final report will be done by the HoR in its first official session .