United Nations Special Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame has said he expects elections to take place in the war-wracked country in early 2019.
The announcement on Thursday is the first official acknowledgement that elections in Libya will be difficult to hold on December 10, as had been agreed by rival leaders at a Paris summit in May.
Salame said a national conference in early 2019 will set the stage for the vote.
“The National Conference is to be held in the first weeks of 2019. The subsequent electoral process should commence in the spring of 2019,” Salame told the Security Council.
Divisions along regional, tribal and linguistic lines have complicated the north African country’s transition to democracy since the overthrow of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi seven years ago.
The existence of two rival legislatures – the internationally recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli and the eastern-based House of Representatives (HOR) – each with its own central bank and national oil company – is indicative of the country’s plight as it tries to enact the necessary reforms and, ultimately, hold elections.
Salame accused the two rival chambers of delaying the vote to waste time and advance their own narrow interests at the expense of Libyans.
“To both houses, elections are a threat that must be resisted at all costs, but to the citizens, elections are a means of liberation from the ineffective and increasingly illegitimate authorities,” Salame said.
“According to our latest poll, which I received this morning, 80 percent of Libyans insist on having elections”.
Experts, however, say elections will fail to achieve any progress if armed militias aren’t reined in. Libya is one of the world’s largest oil producers with production estimated at 1.3 barrels per day.
“[…] these figures obfuscate the truth: Libyans have been increasingly impoverished while criminals employ violence and patronage networks to steal billions from the national coffers,” Salame said.
Salame, who is the sixth UN envoy since Gaddafi’s removal in 2011, said clashes between rival militias in the capital Tripoli in September served to highlight the delicate security climate and worked as an incentive to demobilise and integrate armed groups into the formal security apparatus.