By Ivy Lewis, staff writer
Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah has endorsed plans to hold a national election on Dec. 24, the first direct presidential polls since independence from Italy in 1951. Saif al-Islam, son of Muammer Gaddafi, and military strongman Khalifa Haftar are expected to run.
According to the United Nations, the election is intended to stabilize the region after a decade of turmoil following the end of Gaddafi’s reign in 2011. Libya has operated under an interim government since 2011, and sections of the country remain under military control.
The legislative election — the first in Libya since 2014 — is expected to take place in January.
“We support the efforts of the higher election committee to hold (the vote) on the planned date. I call for a wide and effective participation of Libyans in the elections,” Dbeibah said at the Libyan Stabilization Conference.
One of the candidates in the upcoming election is al-Islam, son of Gaddafi. Before his death, Gaddafi maintained his regime in Libya for 42 years and was strongly rebuked for his nationalistic sentiments and the political corruption that led to severe poverty in Libya.
“It is not impossible to see a Gaddafi coming to power in Libya in the distant future. It is not completely unthinkable,” Emadeddin Badi, a specialist on Libyan politics, said.
Al-Islam’s bid for the presidency may be undermined due to his criminal conviction by a Libyan court and International Criminal Court arrest warrant. Other criticisms of his bid for the presidency include the increased complexity of Libyan politics since the end of his father’s control over Libya.
“Even if he were to come to power, it would be very difficult for him to establish his authority throughout Libya, given how fragmented the country is,” Badi concluded.
Other Libyan politicians have expressed intentions of running, including military commander Khalifa Haftar. Eastern Libya is currently under the de facto control of Haftar.
After an unsuccessful attempt to hold an election in 2014, Libya has been operating as a series of factions controlled by militias and de facto governments.
Following a ceasefire in the conflict in 2020, a unity government took control and pledged to establish a national election.
Politicians from the Middle East and North Africa region convened at last week’s conference to discuss stabilization efforts in Libya, which has experienced a lack of trust in government following the NATO-backed uprising against Gaddafi.
Gaddafi was killed in 2011 following an intense series of conflicts between Libya and a NATO-led coalition, due to the insurgency movement and attempts by Gaddafi’s forces to unlawfully claim nearby territories. The resulting power vacuum destabilized Libya and led to increased regional conflict.
Officials from France, Italy and the U.S. also voiced their support for a fair, transparent election. Libyan officials have stated that the upcoming election may provide Libya with the stability it will need to hold elections without international aid or interference.
Officials also expressed hope that the elections will get many voters involved with the democratic process.
“I think there will be very strong turnout for these elections, especially as there will be direct presidential polls for the first time since Libya’s independence,” Imed al-Sayeh, head of Libya’s High National Election Commission (HNEC), said.
Analysts note that the election could further destabilize the region if its outcome is contested.
“The big question will be whether or not … the integrity of the vote will be questioned,” Anas el-Gomati, director of a Libya-based think-tank, said.