Held in Tripoli on 21 October, the Libya Stabilization Conference represented a remarkable achievement that showed the progress made so far by the interim political authorities in moving the peace process forward. At the presence of the UN Undersecretary for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, foreign delegations took part in the first international conference held in Libya in recent years, pledging to support the roadmap issued by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. Participants underlined the importance of taking the measures deemed necessary to create an appropriate environment for holding presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 December 2021 in a fair, transparent and inclusive manner.
The final statement of the conference is evidence of the unanimity in considering the polls as quick solution to Libya’s crisis. Leveraging on the need of renewing the legitimacy of discredited institutions and promoting the turnover of the political elite (issues addressed only in part with the establishment of the Government of National Unity), the international community is clearly urging for having elections on time. However, sticking to the roadmap could endanger the political transition, transforming the present turning point into a breaking point that could unravel all the progress made so far.
Structural issues, such as the absence of a constitutional basis for elections, are the main factors validating this negative outlook, which is also supported by the most recent political developments. The controversial postponement of the parliamentary elections by one month, announced by House of Representatives (HoR), has indeed led to many speculations. Rejected by the High Council of State, the move comes after the announcement made last month by General Khalifa Haftar that he was temporarily stepping down from his military duties, according to the HoR’s election law and presumably to prepare his bid for the presidential elections. Former political heavyweights that have so far sit and waited on the sidelines are also expected to join the electoral contest soon, debunking the narrative presenting elections as a much-needed opportunity to rejuvenate the political leadership.
As we get closer to December 24, political volatility is expected to increase exponentially, presenting significant challenges to the roadmap. If proper security conditions are not met, the likelihood of having fair and free elections will be significantly constrained, also considering exogenous factors. Despite the recent Action Plan adopted by the Joint Military Commission (also known as 5+5) for the removal of foreign fighters and mercenaries in a gradual, balanced and sequenced manner, it is highly unlikely that foreign powers would implement the plan in full by the elections date, voluntarily relinquishing a substantial leverage over their local proxies. A thorny issue that will be discussed during a new international conference in Paris next month, whose main goal is however to give a final push to the elections plan and an easy fix to Libya’s problems.
Associate Fellow for the Conflict, Security and Development Programme at the IISS and Maghreb Analyst for the NATO Defense College Foundation, he regularly publishes on issues such as political developments, security and terrorism in the North Africa region