In the Name of Elections: Libya’s Rivaling Leaders Agree on Need for a Poll

Written by | Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

Libya is going to hold elections with the hope of ending years of political instability after the head of the internationally recognized government Fayez al-Sarraj met his rival strongman General Khalifa Haftar, who rules the eastern part of the country, and agreed that the elections would benefit the country. Both leaders were aligned “on the need to end the transitional phase through general elections and on ways to preserve the stability of Libya and unify its institutions,” the UN’s Libya mission UNSMIL tweeted last week.

Libya has been torn between rival factions and militias since the toppling of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The leading factions are Mr. Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, and a rival administration based in the east and backed by Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). The leaders had agreed to a Paris-brokered agreement in May 2018 to organize nationwide elections by the end of 2019. However, instability, territorial disputes and internal divisions have all been derailing the efforts. Last November, Italy hosted talks that demonstrated how deep the divisions were – some delegates refusing to sit next to each other.

To overcome the impasse, UN envoy Ghassan Salame told the UN Security Council in February that he was planning to organize a nationwide conference inside Libya very soon to make the elections happen. Since 2011, Libya has become a place of chaos, which has been only benefitting crime groups, human traffickers being most prominent among them. The territory bordering Algeria, Sudan, Niger and Chad is especially affected by crime and violence. The efforts of the international community led by the United Nations and the European Union have so far failed. In the meantime, the African Union stepped in and called for a global conference in the summer to try to find a solution to the conflict in Libya.

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