A new initiative is to be launched in Libya to enable elections this year, according to Reuters. The initiative was announced at the end of February by the United Nations Libya envoy, Abdoulaye Bathily. Bathily’s goal is to break a year-long stalemate in the country that will risk the comeback of old conflicts by establishing a high-level steering committee. During his presentation to the U.N. Bathily said the committee will bring together different groups from across the country including representatives of political institutions, other political and tribal leaders, civil society groups, security officials, and more.
Bathily said that Libya is in desperate need of the formation of this committee and elections, “Libya’s political class is going through a major legitimacy crisis. One could say that most institutions lost their legitimacy years ago.” Libya has been attempting to hold an election for years, but conflict over the rules has prevented it from happening. The House of Representatives has attempted to create an amendment to address electoral issues along with the High State Council. However, according to Bathily, the amendment was controversial in the country and did not address the main issues with the elections – including issues like candidate eligibility and an election timeline.
Conflict in Libya is not new, and the modern conflict has been happening since 2011 when NATO supported an uprising to remove the de facto leader, Muammar Gaddafi. Unstable, Libya broke into two factions – the east and the west – in 2014. The last time major violence between the two factions occurred was in 2020, and it ended in a ceasefire, according to Reuters. An election was to be held in December of 2021 but never ended up happening due to disputes over the rules of the election.
While the Libyan envoy presented his ideas to the U.N., it is important for the U.N. to only provide support for the specific request and not overstep its bounds. The events of 2011 demonstrate that when organizations such as the U.N. or NATO become overly involved, their intervention can often exacerbate rather than alleviate existing problems. While external guidance may prove beneficial, it is paramount that those with an intimate understanding of the country in question assume leadership roles. Empowering local actors to take charge of the situation can yield more effective and sustainable solutions.
After over a decade of conflict and division and over a two-year period of peace, Libya has the opportunity for an election to install a stable government.
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