Eight days before Libyans are due to vote for the presidential election, confusion reigns over the fate of an election that has yet to be officially delayed but which even an election official now says will be impossible to hold on time .
The vote slated for Dec. 24, along with a parallel election for a new parliament, aimed to help end Libya’s past decade of chaos by installing political leadership with nationwide legitimacy after years of division between factions.
However, the process was hampered from the start by bitter disputes over the legal basis and ground rules of the election, including the eligibility of deeply divided favorites, which were never resolved.
On Saturday, the electoral commission said it would announce the final list of eligible candidates, drawn from the 98 registered, only after legal discussions with the judiciary and parliament.
Amid lingering arguments and fears for electoral integrity after major security incidents, a member of the electoral commission told regional al-Jazeera television on Thursday that a vote on December 24 was no longer possible.
Few of the Libyans Reuters spoke to on Thursday believed the vote would take place on time, although many expected a short delay.
“It will be postponed for a maximum of three months,” said Ahmed Ali, 43, in Benghazi.
Rival candidates and political factions exchanged recriminations, accusing each other of trying to block or manipulate the electoral process to their own advantage.
International powers pushing for elections with the United Nations have maintained their position that polls must take place, but this week they stopped referring to the scheduled Dec. 24 date in public statements.
Over the past few weeks, scores of Libyans have collected their ballots and thousands have registered to run for parliamentary elections, apparently signifying broad popular support for an election.
Tim Eaton of Chatham House, the London think tank, said Libyan political bodies were not ready to publicly declare the vote would not take place for fear of blame for its failure.
“It is quite clear that the legal disputes cannot be resolved under the current circumstances,” he said.
“No one thinks it happens on time, but no one is saying it.”
He left the choice between short deadlines to find solutions to push the elections beyond the line or longer deadlines to reshape the political roadmap, which could also include the replacement of the transitional government, a- he added.
Since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has had no political stability and in 2014 the country has split between warring factions in the East and the West. .
Oil company employee Ali Saad, 66, said he was crying for the future of Libya.
“Even if the elections are postponed, I hope it will be with an agreement and rules that we can work on because otherwise things will be tense and the consequences will be disastrous.”
Analysts and diplomats say a return to direct war between the eastern and western sides, both now entrenched and enjoying significant international military support, seems unlikely at this time.
However, they say there is a greater risk that tensions will escalate into internal factional warfare within either side, especially in Tripoli, where the armed forces are more diverse and divisive. more open policies.
On Wednesday evening, an armed force surrounded government buildings in Tripoli, apparently in response to a decision to replace a senior military official, but there was no fighting and a security source said the situation was emerging. to be resolved.
In the southern town of Sebha, violent clashes erupted earlier this week between groups aligned with rival factions.
Last month, the electoral commission said fighters raided polling centers, stealing ballots.
Australian Associated Press