TRIPOLI (Reuters) – A Libyan political body on Wednesday called for a Dec. 24 presidential election to be delayed to February amid growing jostling over the rules and legal basis of a vote aimed at ending a decade of instability.
The statement by the High State Council (HSC), an advisory body installed through a 2015 peace agreement but not recognised by all other Libyan political entities, comes less than three weeks before the vote.
In Libya’s complex, fractured political environment the extent of the HSC’s powers is debated, but its statement adds to the doubts surrounding the election.
The electoral commission has not yet announced a final list of candidates for the presidential race following a fractious process of court appeals over the eligibility of the 98 who registered to run.
The arguments over some highly divisive candidates, including major figures from Libya’s conflict, have already threatened to torpedo the contest.
Those disputes revealed deeper disagreements over the basis for a voting process that has already diverged from both the U.N.-backed roadmap that set the vote and a controversial election law issued in September by the parliament speaker.
The roadmap envisaged the election as a way to end disputes over the legitimacy of Libya’s rival political bodies, which were formed during earlier transitional periods following the 2011 revolution that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
The HSC was drawn from members of a national assembly elected in 2012 who rejected the results of a 2014 election that created the current parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR).
Despite the 2015 political agreement that enshrined a legislative role for the HoR and an advisory role for the HSC, they do not formally recognise each other, though they have held sporadic peace negotiations in Morocco.
Some Libyans fear the disputes over the current election process could trigger a similar crisis to that surrounding the 2014 vote, when Libya split between warring eastern and western factions with parallel administrations in Tripoli and Benghazi.
The HSC statement on Wednesday said the presidential and parliamentary elections should both take place on the same day, as was originally demanded by the U.N. roadmap.
Laws issued in September and October by HoR speaker Aguila Saleh, a presidential candidate, set a first round presidential vote for Dec. 24 but delayed the parliamentary vote.
Saleh’s critics accuse him of issuing the laws without a quorum or a proper vote in parliament and after intimidation against some members. Saleh and his allies deny wrongdoing and say the laws were passed properly.
(Reporting by Reuters Libya newsroom, writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by William Maclean)