With elections delayed again, Libya's endless transition angers its people

Libya's economic divisions persist, reflecting political problems
Bank employees work at the Business Center Wahda Bank in Benghazi, Libya August 31, 2021. Picture taken August 31, 2021. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori/File Photo

TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI, Libya, Feb 8 (Reuters) - As Libya's political institutions pushed ahead with plans to again extend a transitional period and delay any elections, Libyans across the country were filled with weariness, cynicism and anger.

Libya was meant to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in December, but arguments between factions and bodies of state over how they should take place meant the process collapsed days before the vote.

The parliament voted this week to approve a "roadmap" in which it will choose a new interim government, work with another institution, the High State Council (HSC), to redraft a temporary constitution and push elections back until next year.

"Unfortunately after a year there will be no elections. The transitional periods will continue in Libya and we, the people, are only manipulated," said Saad Mohammed, 35, in Benghazi in eastern Libya.

Nearly 3 million Libyans registered to vote in the December elections, a number that analysts said pointed to a clear national desire to choose their leaders.

"How many times will we postpone? We've been going for years and we've been postponing. And all we see is postponement, postponement, postponement," said Mohamed Gharyani, speaking on a street in Tripoli.

Across the country in Benghazi, Khaled Ali, 46, agreed that politicians were merely trying to stay in power as long as possible. "There will be no elections for a year and a half," he said.

Eleven years of chaos, violence and division since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi have left Libya with a series of political institutions that were originally meant to be temporary, but that have stuck around for years.

December's elections were meant to resolve this "crisis of legitimacy", as it has become known, by replacing all Libya's institutions with ones recently chosen by voters.

"Everything the parliament and the High State Council are doing is to procrastinate in order to stay in power," said Asma Fituri, a teacher, in a Tripoli market.


The HSC was formed from members of an interim parliament that was elected in 2012, but which refused to recognise elections to replace it two years later. A 2015 political agreement meant to end the civil war recognised the HSC as an official institution with consultative powers.

The current parliament, the House of Representatives, was elected in 2014. While it did not have a set term, it was supposed to oversee a short transition to a new constitution that would be written by another body elected that year, but which was never completed.

Meanwhile, the latest Tripoli administration, the Government of National Unity (GNU), was installed last year as part of a U.N.-backed roadmap with a mandate to oversee the run-up to elections.

Its leaders were chosen by the 75 members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) who were themselves picked by the U.N. to represent the main factional and regional groups.

The LPDF roadmap said the GNU's mandate would run until elections on Dec. 24, 2021, but did not say what would happen if they did not take place.

The U.N. Libya adviser and Western states say the GNU and LPDF both remain valid, though the parliament says their mandate has expired.

"All we want now is elections sooner rather than later so that we can choose new authorities and change the landscape," said Muhanad al-Tawati, a state employee in Tripoli.

Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Nick Macfie

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