Candidates demand progress on postponed Libyan election — Analysis

Presidential candidates in Libya are pressuring the election commission to finalize the ballots after it announced the postponement of Friday’s key election by a month.

The national poll was supposed to coincide with Libya’s independence day, marking the anniversary of the 1951 formation of the Kingdom of Libya from provinces previously controlled by Britain and France. However, earlier this week the High National Elections Commission declared that the elections would not be held and instead set the date for January 24, 2019.

One group representing presidential hopefuls called for Friday’s completion of the candidate lists.

Because of ongoing disputes between political forces within the country about the rules for the elections, the date was moved back by one month. Libya continues to be fractured, tethered by violence following the NATO-supported revolt against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. His opponents summarily executed him.

The eccentric military commander was able to maintain the tight-knit Libyan society for many decades using oil revenues to raise living standards and suppress opposition. One of his sons, who is still alive today, is a candidate for the presidency.

UN supported the election and believed it was the best opportunity for years to bring together rival factions in the country. The run-up to the elections was marred by disagreements about the rules and their enforcement.

WATCH: Armed men surround Tripoli government HQ

Some problems result from the attempt by parliament to divide the connected elections into two separate parts with the presidential vote going first. The move was opposed by Speaker Aguila Salesh who, as a candidate for the presidency is trying to provide overwhelming advantage to the winner.

The leading presidential candidates are also covered by other divisions. Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah is the acting prime minister. He was part of an interim government which came to power in March with only the purpose of organizing elections. Critics claim he should have stayed out of the election, and his decision to stand was unjust.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi (the son of the Libyan leader) is accused of war crime allegedly committed in the 2011 war.

Khalifa Haitar was an Eastern military commander who used his loyal troops two years back to seize Tripoli. The siege lasted for over a decade and resulted in significant destruction.

Hours after the election commission’s announcement, the parliament said it would form a committee to lay out a roadmap for the period of time after December 24, but it’s unclear if this suggestion will be accepted.

Further doubts are cast on the authority of the interim administration, whose mandate expired technically on Friday. In September, the parliament, which has its headquarters in the eastern part of the country with a mandate to act as an executive, withdrew support for the body.

The month-long pause is not likely to resolve the differences. Amid rising tensions before the scheduled date of the vote, there was a reported surge in violence in Libya, including by armed groups seeking to control the country’s oil fields.

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