Clear Road Map, Timeline Urgently Needed for Holding Elections in Libya, Special Representative Tells Security Council

Marking the twelfth anniversary of their 2011 revolt against Libya’s longstanding leader, Muammar Gadhafi, the country’s people remain frustrated by a lack of political progress and impatient for change, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, proposing a new mechanism to support the holding of crucial elections in 2023.

Abdoulaye Bathily, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), said Libyans commemorated the anniversary by voicing their determination to achieve a better future and renewing their demands for peace, long-term stability and prosperity.“The political process remains protracted and falls short of the aspirations of Libyans, who seek to elect their leaders and reinvigorate their political institutions,” he said.The population is impatient, and many question the will and desire of political actors to hold inclusive and transparent presidential and legislative elections in 2023, as expected.

Outlining his engagement with numerous stakeholders since his last briefing, in December 2022, he said his focus has been on exploring ways to overcome the current political impasse.By and large, interlocutors have agreed on the need to hold inclusive and transparent elections in 2023.However, he said, agreement on a constitutional basis and specific arrangements for holding them remains elusive, and a clear road map and timeline are urgently needed.Emphasizing that Libya’s political class is facing a “major legitimacy crisis” — while most State institutions lost their legitimacy years ago — he announced his plan to establish a new high-level steering panel for the country, aimed at bringing together stakeholders to facilitate a timebound legal framework for elections in 2023.

As Council members took the floor, some expressed support for the newly proposed steering panel, as well as for the Special Representative’s work more broadly.While many underscored the urgency of holding elections in line with the aspirations of the Libyan people, some also emphasized the need to accelerate a Libyan national reconciliation process.Still others focused on the crucial need to rid the country of foreign fighters and mercenary troops.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates noted that 12 years have passed since the events of 17 February 2011, when protesters first took to the streets of Libya.The revolt provided an opportunity for change as well as a transition to a new phase in Libya’s history.He said that, more recently, the country has postponed its planned 2021 elections due to endless rounds of consultations, which have prolonged the process.Expressing support for the Special Representative’s efforts to bring about a Libyan-owned political settlement, he echoed other speakers in calling for a balanced withdrawal of foreign forces, foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libyan soil.

The representative of Mozambique, also speaking for African Council members Gabon and Ghana, declared:“The people of Libya deserve better, and are calling for elections as a way out.”Emphasizing that Libya is an African country — whose challenges are spilling over and impacting countries across the Sahel region and West Africa — he called on all foreign actors to consider the needs of Libyans by ending their support to various factions in the conflict, which only exacerbates the crisis.He also voiced his strong support for the Special Representative’s proposal to establish a high-level steering panel, in close coordination with partners, aimed at facilitating the holding of elections.

France’s delegate cautioned that foreign forces and mercenaries are only tightening their grip in Libya.That country deserves better than leaders whose access to power and public funds is an end in itself, rather than a means to serve economic development and the public good.France’s priorities in Libya — restoring political stability and the relaunch of an electoral process — remain unchanged, she said, describing an agreement on a legal electoral basis and a new political road map as essential.It is also crucial to ensure that corruption and intimidation are not used as campaign tools, she said.

The representative of the United States voiced concern over the unstable status quo in Libya, marked by heightened risk of energy disruptions, further political strife and violence.The only viable path to a durable peace is enabling that country’s people to choose their own leaders in national elections, he said, endorsing the Special Representative’s efforts to directly address the electoral process via a United Nations-facilitated mechanism.Emphasizing that progress on the political track must be accompanied by progress on the security track, he went on to call for the immediate withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries, noting that personnel of the Wagner Group are particularly problematic.

The Russian Federation’s representative, while voicing support for efforts to organize inclusive and credible elections, nevertheless warned against acting with haste, as badly organized elections would only prove counterproductive.Stressing that Libya requires full-scale reconstruction following the destruction wrought by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries in 2011, he said some of those nations remain duplicitous in their aims in Libya, with the goal of preserving a status quo in which the country remains a stable exporter of oil. He hoped that Libya will avoid falling into the same trap as other regional States, while voicing support for a “synchronized, balanced and gradual” withdrawal of all non-Libyan armed groups from the country, without exception.

Meanwhile, the representative of Libya said the 2011 Security Council resolution that submitted his country to Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations had serious consequences for his nation, including an international intervention that exploited the Libyan people’s dreams of change.While Libyans have lost trust in the international community, they are keenly following the Council’s work.The global community must support national Libyan efforts towards holding fair, just parliamentary and presidential elections, and avoid mistakes of the past, he stressed.Against that backdrop, he said all mediation proposals must be examined in light of past experiences, warning: “The illness cannot be treated by the same medicine that failed to cure in the past.”

Source: UN Security Council