The National - News

Two women register to run in presidenti­al election as Libya prepares to go to the polls


Two women have joined the race to become Libya’s next president, the country’s electoral commission has said.

Registrati­ons closed late on Monday, with 98 people in the running.

The UN’s special envoy for Libya, Jan Kubis, who resigned yesterday, praised the process and urged rival factions to ensure the vote goes ahead as planned next month.

As part of the UN-backed peace process, presidenti­al and parliament­ary elections are scheduled to be held on December 24, but there has been no broad agreement on the law to govern the vote.

The two women to register as candidates are Leila Ben Khalifa, leader of the National Movement Party, and Hunaida Al Mahdi, a researcher in social sciences.

Aguila Saleh, Speaker of the House of Representa­tives in the east of the country, eastern military commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and Saif Al Islam Qaddafi, son of the country’s former leader Muammar Qaddafi, are among the prominent names in the running.

Fathi Bashagha, a former minister of interior with the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, and former prime minister Ali Zeidan have also registered.

Mr Saleh said this month that he planned to “turn the page on conflict, look towards the future” and launch a process of national reconcilia­tion that would be a “pillar of a stable nation”.

Disputes between rival factions and political entities have centred on who should be allowed to enter the race, meaning there has not yet been clarity on whether the poll will actually take place.

Other challenges to efforts to hold the elections next month include infighting among armed groups and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters in the country.

Libya has faced unrest since the uprising that toppled Qaddafi in 2011.

For years, it has been divided between rival government­s in the east and west.

“Ninety-eight presidenti­al candidates have officially been registered,” the electoral commission said.

Seventy-three of the registered candidates put their names forward in the capital, Tripoli, 12 registered in the eastern city of Benghazi and 13 signed up in the south-western city of Sabha, the commission said.

More than 2.8 million of Libya’s seven million population have registered to vote.

The High National Election Commission has expressed optimism about the turnout in the elections.

More than 1,000 candidates have submitted nomination­s for the parliament­ary elections, the commission said.

But many observers have said some candidates may pull out as the vote draws closer owing to agreements made to secure other public offices, or seats in Parliament.

Mr Kubis emphasised the importance of holding the elections as planned and called on all Libyans to cast a ballot and accept the results.

That message was issued on Monday during a meeting with Abdullah Al Lafi, vice president of the Libyan Presidenti­al Council.

“Libya’s current situation is very sensitive,” Mr Kubis said.

The judiciary will look into possible objections against any of the candidates, he said.

Mr Kubis was scheduled to brief the UN Security Council today on the Libyan elections.

Infighting among armed groups and the presence of foreign fighters have posed challenges to election efforts

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