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Libya calls off presidential election planned for Friday

December 22, 2021

A parliamentary committee has said holding the vote would be "impossible." The country's election board has now suggested January 24 as an alternative.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi sits at a table to sign documents
Seif al-Islam Gadhafi (center) fought at court to be approved as candidate, but remains deeply contestedImage: Khaled Al-Zaidy/Handout/Reuters

Libya's presidential election, scheduled to take place on December 24, has now been called off.

Lawmakers on the committee overseeing the vote concluded on Wednesday that holding it on time would be "impossible."

"After consulting the technical, judicial, and security reports, we inform you of the impossibility of holding the elections," lawmaker Al Hadi al-Sagheer wrote to Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh.

The High National Electoral Commission (HNEC) has suggested postponing the first round of voting to January 24, according to a statement on its Facebook page.

Why was the Libya vote postponed?

The Commission disbanded electoral committees late on Tuesday and handed responsibility for the vote over to the parliament.
It never released a final list of candidates, with many of them highly contested.

In total, close to 100 people had been running for office in the deeply divided and war-torn country.

Other obstacles include disputes over the laws governing the election, infighting among armed groups, a long-running rift between the country's east and west and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters.

What this means for the UN peace process

Friday's election was to mark a fresh start for Libya a year after a landmark cease-fire.

The cancellation of the presidential poll is a major setback to the peace process aimed at ending a decade of chaos in the wake of a 2011 revolt that removed late dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Many Libyans had registered for the vote, and some lawmakers have called for protests after it was called off.

The status of the interim government that was installed in March as part of the UN peace process is also at risk.

The US ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, said the delay was a disappointment.

He urged the parties to "expeditiously address all legal and political obstacles to hold elections, including finalizing the list of presidential candidates." Norland said arrangements for the elections should be a priority. 

lo/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)