TUNIS (Reuters) – A senior United Nations Libya official is seeking agreement this month on election laws and constitutional arrangements, she told Reuters on Wednesday, with rival factions locked in a dangerous stand-off.
Stephanie Williams said she wanted the talks between members of the parliament and High State Council, the country’s two recognised legislative bodies, to take place before Ramadan, which is expected to start on April 1.
Libya faces a political crisis after the parliament last week swore in a new government with the incumbent administration refusing to cede power amid the fallout from a failed attempt to hold national elections in December.
Each rival government has support among the armed factions based in Tripoli, and the parliament-backed prime minister, Fathi Bashagha, has said he intends to take over in the capital this week, raising fears of clashes.
Asked which one the U.N. regarded as valid, Williams said “we’re not in the business of endorsing or recognising governments” and added that she was focused on pushing for an election.
Williams, who was previously the acting U.N. envoy in Libya, was appointed in December as the secretary general’s Libya adviser with a mandate to lead mediation efforts.
Williams said last week she would convene a joint committee with six members each from the parliament and the High State Council.
The two chambers should each submit six names to join the committee “in the next few days”, Williams said.
“We need to get these talks going prior to the month of Ramadan. We’ve set aside two weeks to establish the constitutional basis. We can hopefully also in that period work on the electoral law,” she said.
“That will allow us to put the country on a footing for elections.”
The two chambers’ failure to agree on a constitutional basis for the election, or on an election law, contributed to the collapse of December’s scheduled vote.
The parliament then said in January it no longer recognised the Government of National Unity of Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, which was installed a year ago through a U.N.-backed peace process.
The parliament instead initiated a new transitional period by forming another interim government, calling for a new constitution to be approved this year and no elections until 2023.
Bashagha’s team has accused Dbeibah of closing down Libyan airspace as part of an effort to resist transferring power. Domestic flights have been grounded for days.
Williams said airspace should be reopened.
“It’s a basic right for people to be able to travel from one part of the country to the other and in fact it’s enshrined in the ceasefire agreement,” she said.
(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Alex Richardson)