Williams Calls for Elections Agreement before Ramadan

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On Thursday, the Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General on Libya (SASG), Stephanie Williams stated that she is seeking an agreement this month on election laws, and constitutional arrangements with rival factions locked in a dangerous stand-off.

In an interview with Reuters, Williams said that she wanted talks between members of the Libyan Parliament and High State Council (HCS), the country’s two recognized legislative bodies, to take place before Ramadan, which is expected to start on 1 April.

Libya faces a political crisis after Parliament swore in a new government, last week. The incumbent administration has refused to cede power, amid the fallout from a failed attempt to hold national elections in December.

Each rival government has support among the armed factions based in Tripoli. The Parliament-backed Prime Minister, Fathi Bashagha has said he intends to take over in the capital this week, raising fears of clashes.

Asked which one the UN regarded as valid, Williams said “we’re not in the business of endorsing or recognising governments” and added that she was focused on pushing for elections.

Williams was previously the acting UN Envoy to Libya. She was appointed in December as the SASG, with a mandate to lead mediation efforts.

Last week, she said she would convene a joint committee with six members from each of the legislative bodies. The two chambers should each submit six names to join the committee, “in the next few days”, Williams said.

“We need to get these talks going prior to the month of Ramadan. We’ve set aside two weeks to establish the constitutional basis. We can hopefully also in that period, work on the electoral law. That will allow us to put the country on a footing for elections” she added.

The two chambers’ failure to agree on a constitutional basis for the elections, or on electoral laws contributed to the collapse of December’s scheduled vote.

In January, the Parliament announced it no longer recognised the Government of National Unity (GNU) of Prime Minister, Abdel-Hamid Dbaiba.

A new transitional period began, with a new government formed, calls for a new constitution to be approved this year, and no elections until 2023.

Bashagha’s office has accused Dbaiba of closing down Libyan airspace, as part of an effort to resist transferring power. Domestic flights have been grounded for days, with Williams calling for airspace to be reopened.

“It’s a basic right for people to be able to travel from one part of the country to the other, and in fact, it’s enshrined in the ceasefire agreement,” she said.