Libyan fac­tions agree to hold elec­tions in six months de­spite deep di­vi­sions

Get­ting the lead­ers into one room was in it­self a great achieve­ment

The East African - - OUTLOOK - By ALISSA J. RU­BIN New York Times News Ser­vice

The lead­ers of ri­val Libyan fac­tions agreed Tues­day to work to­gether on a le­gal frame­work for holding pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in De­cem­ber, in a deal be­ing pushed by Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron of France to bring sta­bil­ity to Libya and stem the flow of mi­grants to Europe from its shores.

It was lat­est of nu­mer­ous in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to find a po­lit­i­cal solution to the chaos plagu­ing Libya since the ouster of Muam­mar Gaddafi in 2011. But an­a­lysts said the elec­tion timetable was ex­tremely op­ti­mistic and that the agree­ment, as with pre­vi­ous ef­forts, risked be­ing un­der­mined by op­po­si­tion from armed groups on the ground.

Un­der the terms of the agree­ment, the Libyan lead­ers will set elec­tion rules by mid-septem­ber, hold the vote on De­cem­ber 10, and en­sure that vot­ers and can­di­dates re­main safe. The lead­ers also agreed to even­tu­ally stream­line their par­al­lel gov­ern­ment struc­tures and merge their armed forces and other se­cu­rity en­ti­ties.

Larger is­sues

Power in Libya is di­vided be­tween two ri­val gov­ern­ments, in the east and west of the coun­try, and a plethora of armed groups that pledge al­le­giance to ei­ther ad­min­is­tra­tion, or to none.

Pres­i­dent France de­scribed the agree­ment as “his­toric” and es­sen­tial to the “se­cu­rity and sta­bil- ity of the Libyan peo­ple.”

The French pres­i­dent has tried to carve out a role for him­self as a me­di­a­tor in the Mid­dle East and a pro­po­nent of mul­ti­lat­eral agree­ments.

Get­ting the lead­ers in the same room was an achieve­ment in it­self, an­a­lysts said, but trans­lat­ing that into con­crete ef­forts to rein in armed groups and sta­bilise the coun­try re­mains a daunt­ing task.

In a sign of the dif­fi­cul­ties ahead, none of the lead­ers in Paris signed Tues­day’s agree­ment. When asked about it, pres­i­dent Macron said the lead­ers wanted to dis­cuss it with their sup­port­ers back home. But then he cut through the diplo­matic lan­guage to ac­knowl­edge a larger is­sue.

“You have here the pres­i­dents of in­sti­tu­tions that do not recog­nise each other,” pres­i­dent Macron said.

“Each and ev­ery one de­nied the ex­is­tence of the in­sti­tu­tions that the oth­ers rep­re­sented and their le­git­i­macy. That is the dif­fi­culty of Libya’s cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.”

Na­tional ac­cord

The fac­tional lead­ers in Paris in­cluded Prime Min­is­ter Fayez al-sar­raj of the Un-backed unity gov­ern­ment in Tripoli; Gen Khal­ifa Hifter, whose forces con­trol much of the coun­try’s east; Khalid Mishri, the newly elected head of the High Coun­cil of State, which is an ad­vi­sory body to the Gov­ern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord led by Sar­raj; and Aguila Saleh Issa, the Speaker of the To­bruk­based House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

UN of­fi­cials — who have been work­ing with a wider group on a plan to adopt a new con­sti­tu­tion, call elec­tions and bring sta­bil­ity — also par­tic­i­pated in the Paris meet­ing, as did rep­re­sen­ta­tives of 20 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Libya’s

Libya re­mains a frag­mented polity with mul­ti­ple po­ten­tial spoil­ers.” In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group

Pic­ture: AFP

Some of the ri­val Libyan lead­ers at the Paris meet­ing where they are push­ing for a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment in their coun­try.

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