Unprecedented numbers of registered voters reflect Libyans’ longing to replace the country’s current ineffective institutions with a legitimate functioning government, Ghassan Salame, head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, has told the UN Security Council on Monday.
Mr Salame said a plan to hold elections by the end of the year was in line with the UN Action Plan for Libya. He was of course referring to the elections roadmap agreed late May in Paris by Libya’s main political stakeholders; Fayez Sarraj, head of Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), Khalifa Hifter, General Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Agila Saleh, Speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR) and Khalid Mashri, President of the High Council of State (HCS). In a meeting hosted by the Élysée the four leaders have verbally endorsed a plan for presidential and parliamentary elections on 10 December 2018 which would be preceded by an electoral law to be passed by the HoR no later than 16 September.
Mr Salame’s speech was not particularly optimistic and rightly so. UNSMIL chief warned the Security Council of three threats to Libya elections. First, actions of the “handful of people” benefiting from the status quo “who would do whatever they can to hinder elections”. Second, lack of guarantees that – unlike the parliamentary elections of 2014 – the Libyan rivals will respect the results. Three, the lack of legislative framework for elections.
Despite Monday’s announcement by the HoR that they will vote on the electoral law on 30 July, Mr Salame has expressed deep scepticism. Not only because its provisions are still being debated in the HoR and that it would require a quorum of 120 votes, but also for HoR’s history with breaking similar promises. “I recently met with the Speaker of the House. He promised a vote on a law for the referendum of the constitution within the next two weeks, and that electoral legislation would be voted upon immediately after. I truly hope this pledge is kept, this time,” a doubtful Mr Salame told the Security Council on Monday.
The technical preparations for elections appear to be progressing well. On Monday the GNA gave the electoral commission 66 million dinars to cover its running costs, and yesterday the commission received its new office to replace the old one that was damaged by an Islamic State attack in early May.
The UN envoy realizes that threats to Libya’s electoral process sometimes come from beyond its border. Without naming them it was clear that he meant to warn of the public rivalry and fierce competition over influence in Libya between Italy and France when he said: “It is exactly because of this complexity that the international community must show unity. Once we reach a reasonable conformity of views among the Libyans, we are working on, the international community must stand together behind this Libyan vision. If even a single member state chooses to act alone, I can say, the process will go nowhere”.