United States backs plans for high-risk presidential elections in Libya

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Kamala Harris, the US Vice President, has supported a plan to hold risky and unprecedented parliamentary and presidential elections in Libya next month, even as human rights groups have warned that conditions fair elections might not exist.

Harris attended a conference in Paris on the future of Libya attended by over 30 countries and hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; and the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi.

Human Rights Watch said the elections were a much needed chance for a reset in the country, but warned that “free and fair elections will be hardly possible without the rule of law, justice and accountability that are currently sorely lacking. “.

The United States – and most of the international community at the Paris summit – felt Libya was more likely to descend into chaos if the elections did not take place, starting on December 24.

At present, there is no agreed constitution, a timetable only exists for the withdrawal of 300 mercenaries, disputes are mounting over the right to run and there is a good chance that the militias will seek to intimidate voters. There are also unresolved disputes over whether legislative and presidential elections should take place on the same day, or the presidential election first.

In a pragmatic attempt to build more momentum behind the elections, the UN appears willing to allow interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh to run, though an unpublished report may suggest his supporters have offered bribes – wine to certain members of a UN organ. to elect him to his office. It was also a condition of his tenure that he did not run in the December election, a rule he now wants to set aside.

Tarek Megerisi, North Africa specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the international community “wants to let Dbeibeh run because they believe it gives the elections the best chance to take place.”

“The international community has long favored the holding of elections to the integrity of the process – for example by validating the laws adopted by decree by the president of parliament, Aquileh Saleh. Letting Dbeibeh run can be seen as a small concession to what has already been sacrificed for these elections to take place, ”he said.

The Paris summit communiqué places a strong emphasis on an inclusive and inclusive electoral process, suggesting that electoral rules should be rewritten to allow Dbeibeh to run.

The summit also tried to create momentum behind repeated calls for the withdrawal of foreign forces. Turkey wishes to keep its troops in the country, insisting on their presence at the invitation of the previous Tripoli-based government.

Turkey, close to Dbeibeh, sent a low-level delegation to Paris to stress its opposition to the pressure exerted on them to leave the country. In his summit speech, Dbeibeh only referred to foreign fighters and mercenaries leaving Libya, but not foreign forces – a phrase that would apply to the Turkish military.

France has said it wants the elections to be irreversible and indisputable, a tall order in a country so divided over the allocation of resources between its east and west. But the press release calls on all candidates to respect each other during the campaign and to respect the result.

The statement made no practical proposal on how to continue elections to bodies without an agreed constitutional basis, leaving the matter to the electoral commission. With the candidates running now, the support of foreign powers confirmed and the registration process underway, there is still a possibility that an election will take place.

The statement also warned that “individuals or entities, inside or outside Libya, who may attempt to hinder, undermine, manipulate or tamper with the electoral process and political transition” could do so. subject to sanctions.

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