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Libyan parliament suspended amid political crisis

The chamber did not approve any of the measures proposed before the suspension
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PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Libyan Parliament meets to discuss the approval of the new government, in Sirte, Libya, 8 March 2021.

The situation in Libya, far from being resolved, seems to be moving away from any hint of reconciliation. After postponing the long-awaited elections that should have taken place on 24 December, the news from Tripoli does not give cause for optimism. The Libyan parliament decided to suspend its activity on Tuesday until next week after seeing its attempts to push through any of the measures it had hoped to approve to reverse the situation of instability the country is going through frustrated. In fact, one of the priority objectives was to set a new date for the elections, something that proved impossible, as no measures were even put to the vote.

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AFP/GREGORIO BORGIA - Libya's Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeiba

The first session in Tobruk ended on Monday after failing to make progress on the election date. The announcement of the postponement of the elections was announced by Imad al Sayeh, president of the Libyan Electoral Commission, in a statement in which it could be read that "after consulting the technical, judicial and security reports, we report the impossibility of holding the elections on the date of 24 December 2021". Despite this, the president of the parliament has not yet announced the official reason for the suspension, as al Sayeh's communiqué did not mention any specific reason.

Another unresolved question is what will happen to the National Unity Government led by the incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibé. His candidacy is one of the most important controversies surrounding the elections since, according to electoral law - and the promise he made when he took office - Dbeibé cannot run in the elections. Moreover, an electoral commission set up by parliament recommended a change of government, as it considered that the current one had failed to provide the country with the necessary stability for the elections to be held.

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AFP/MAHMUD TURKIA - File photo, polling station in Tripoli, November 8, 2021

The same committee also criticised Dbeibé's candidacy on the grounds that it contravened the principles of "justice and equality". However, there was one point on which they agreed in the chamber, namely criticism of the UK's interference, which said it did not recognise "the establishment of parallel governments or institutions" and that it "does not support anyone" in Libyan politics at present. This statement by the British embassy did not sit well with Tripoli, which called it a 'violation of diplomatic norms'. Abdel Wahab Zuliya, a member of parliament, also claimed that it was "blatant and illogical interference".

On the other hand, the UN Special Envoy to Libya, Stephanie Williams, wanted to distance the controversy from the UK and reminded that the main thing at the moment is to refocus their efforts on the holding of the elections. However, the suspension of parliament's work is not a good indication of the development of talks between the different sectors, which seem to be increasingly polarised. All of this is spurred by the controversial candidacies, as the incumbent prime minister's is not the only one.

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PHOTO/MARTIAL TREZZINI/KEYSTONE via AP - Stephanie Williams has been appointed special adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Libya, the UN announced on 6 December 2021.

Khalifa Haftar and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi are two of the most important names that are not without controversy. Indeed, the latter was rejected by the electoral commission in the first instance, only to have his candidacy facilitated by the Sebha court, which accepted the appeal lodged by the son of the dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi. But beyond these obstacles, the discontent on the streets of Libya is widespread. After 10 years of instability following the NATO-backed overthrow of Gaddafi, elections seemed to be just around the corner until the postponement of polling day put the brakes on optimism.

"Libya must hold elections on time. We reject any postponement or manipulation of Libya's will," said activist Mohamed Alorfy at a rally in Benghazi, reports Arab News. Alorfy's words represent a society that has seen one of the goals the international community has been working towards for more than a year with the Forum for Libyan Political Dialogue (FPLD) disappear. However, the delegations of the US, UK, France, Germany and Italy have jointly called for a new election date to be set as soon as possible and for the long-awaited democratic transition to materialise.