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Controversy as Libya speaker ratifies presidential vote law

Controversy after Libya speaker ratifies presidential vote law
2 min read
11 September, 2021
A law governing Libya's upcoming presidential election has been ratified by the country's parliament speaker, triggering backlash from lawmakers.
The speaker's decision sparked backlash [Getty]

Libyan parliament speaker Aguila Saleh has ratified a law governing the country's upcoming presidential election, sparking criticism from MPs and politicians who say he failed to follow due process.

The oil-rich North African country is trying to extricate itself from a decade of turmoil following the 2011 toppling of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

In recent years, Libya was split between rival administrations backed by foreign powers and myriad militias.

After eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar's forces were routed from the country's west last year, the two camps signed a ceasefire in Geneva in October.

And earlier this year, an interim government was established to lead Libya towards December parliamentary and presidential 24 polls.

Spokesman for the eastern-based parliament, Abdallah Bliheq, on Thursday posted on Facebook the text of 75 articles signed by Saleh covering the presidential electoral process.

The long-awaited move sparked anger among the  High Council of State (HCS) and a group of 22 lawmakers who criticised Saleh for not submitting the text to a parliamentary vote.

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The HCS, the equivalent of Libya's senate based in Tripoli, decried Saleh's "unilateral" decision.

It accused him of trying to "grab powers he does not have" in order to "hamper the upcoming elections by deliberately promulgating a flawed piece of legislation".

The MPs said in a statement that ratifying the law without a vote violates parliament's internal rules.

Critics accuse Saleh of trying to favour Haftar, a likely candidate for the presidency who controls the country's eastern province and part of the south.

The UN envoy for Libya Jan Kubis told the Security Council on Friday that Saleh informed him "the presidential electoral law was already adopted".

Saleh said that "the parliamentary elections can be organised on the basis of the existing law with possible amendments that could be considered and approved within the coming two weeks", Kubis added.

"Holding the elections in Libya, even in less than ideal situation, and with all imperfections, challenges and risks is much more desirable than no elections that could only foster division, instability, and conflict," Kubis said.

Former interior minister Fathi Bashagha, also a likely presidential candidate, welcomed the law's approval and called it an "important and very positive step" toward holding the December polls.

The law regulating the legislative elections, also planned for December 24, still needs to be debated and voted in parliament before it is ratified.