(La Presse)- The Presidential elections due to take place in Libya on 24 December are making waves in Canada. One of the three main candidates, and current Prime Minister Abdel-Hamid Dbaiba is accused of fabricating his master’s degree in civil engineering, which he claims to have obtained in 1992 at the University of Toronto. Three years earlier, he stated the same institution also awarded him an undergraduate degree in engineering.
A few days ago, a Libyan activist, Husam El-Gomati, stated on social media that the diplomas were forged. The University of Toronto took several days last week to search its archives for Dbaiba’s degrees.
As Arabic names are often spelled in multiple way, the university attempted to locate records of the PM under at least six transliterations, to no avail. “We searched our records and found no entry matching the information you submitted to us,” the university said in an email sent last Friday.
While the issue has caused a stir in Libya, it is unlikely to change the course of this controversial election campaign.
After years of civil war, Libya has experienced relative calm since the October 2020 ceasefire agreement. This fragile peace risks being shattered by political camps that do not recognise their mutual legitimacy.
“There is a risk that a faction will claim to have won while the others will dispute the legitimacy of its victory, which could lead to an explosion of violence”, predicts Claudia Gazzini, specialist on Libya within the International Crisis Group, an organisation specialising in the study and prevention of conflicts. “To avoid this scenario, it would be good to postpone the election,” she said.
With four days to go to the vote, no signs of election campaigns are visible on the ground, and several observers believe the vote will simply not take place.
“There is no one who wants this election, it will not take place,” says Iman Bughaigis, an orthodontist who was involved in the 2011 revolt against Muammar Gaddafi in Benghazi.
Dbaiba’s candidacy is contested because he currently serves as Prime Minister, which gives him an unfair advantage, according to his opponents. “He campaigns with money from the national bank, he distributes money to get elected,” laments Bughaigis.
A factor further complicating this election is that the allegiances of the three main candidates are determined by the regions where they find their support. Khalifa Haftar, in the east of the country. Dbaiba in the west, and Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi in the south.
The elections are sponsored by the UN, which is seeking to pacify Libya after a decade of deadly chaos, risks plunging it back into a new cycle of violence.