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Norland Tells Asharq Al-Awsat that Goodwill of Libyan Leaders to be Tested

Norland Tells Asharq Al-Awsat that Goodwill of Libyan Leaders to be Tested

Saturday, 8 January, 2022 - 06:45
US Ambassador and Special Envoy to Libya Richard Norland (US Embassy)

The US Ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, has said that the North African country is now going through a period in which the “goodwill” of its leaders, who claim they are committed to holding elections, will be put to the test.

However, Norland warned that flippant leaders might find a million reasons to delay the vote.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Norland said he believes that good leaders would now actively engage in trying to get things back on the right track as soon as possible. He also reiterated US support and said that Washington would continue to coordinate with international partners.

When addressing the reasons behind delaying Libyan elections, Norland said that Libyan politics were complicated and that it is difficult for external observers to pinpoint exact explanations.

Nevertheless, Norland said that “conflicting candidacies” that appeared relatively late in the election process had spurred fears of violence erupting. This, according to Norland, could have been a motive for a temporary halt of elections.

He relayed his belief in the High National Election Commission (HNEC) having been prepared to hold polls on time. But the organizing body had its work disrupted by controversial candidacies.

Unfortunately, some parties were more than happy to seize the opportunity at hand.

The US diplomat considered that Libyan politicians dodged the responsibility of announcing that elections were postponed mainly because they feared the people holding them accountable.

The US decision to back holding elections as scheduled on December 24 was neither naïve nor a misread of Libya’s political and security status quo, stressed Norland, adding that the country’s politicians must share the blame for what happened.

To this day, no serious political figure in Libya wants to be tied to the delayed polls because they know that people want to hold the vote as soon as possible.

The Libyans chose the date of the elections, and the US strongly supported their desire to meet that date, despite flaws in the electoral law, said Norland.

He noted that there was real traction for holding elections, at least until the issue of controversial candidates erupted.

Norland pointed to the HNEC’s technical preparations having been “highly professional and efficient,” and most serious political actors in Libya, at least, had been in favor of holding elections.

On US threats to saboteurs, the ambassador said that sanctions mainly concern personalities rejecting the results of elections and those who practiced violence mongering to obstruct the electoral process.

According to Norland, the matter of sanctions has not been settled yet, and a decision may be taken in this regard later.

Norland also criticized reports saying his country had lost enthusiasm for the electoral process in Libya and allowed its collapse after realizing that results may not lead to the creation of a unified authority with which the US administration can coordinate.

The US has supported the strong desire of the Libyan people to elect a sovereign, united and legitimate government to move the country onto a firm path toward stability and prosperity, asserted Norland.

As for whether postponing elections benefits and reinforces the influence of armed groups in Libya, Norland said that those groups understand that elections are what the majority of Libyans want for their country.

The US envoy considered that there is an opportunity to build on the previous ceasefire and the broad political dialogue conducted over the past year, aiming to return the elections to the right track in a reasonable time.

Free, fair, and inclusive elections can lead to a democratic government that best serves the interests of the Libyan people, asserted Norland.

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