Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Libya and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya Abdoulaye Bathily stressed that his initiative to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in 2023 aims to “move the still political waters” and “ensure that everyone takes part in the electoral process.”
In an interview to Asharq Al-Awsat, the envoy underscored that he supports any consensus that leads Libya to the path of recovery.
He explained that his initiative aims to build on agreements that have so far been reached between the parliament and High Council of State on the elections. It also seeks to expand the circles of Libyan participation in the elections and reaching a solution to the current crisis.
These issues should not be left in the hands of the two legislative councils as they have taken enough time already without reaching tangible results, he added.
“Everyone will have a say in paving the way to the elections alongside the parliament and High Council of State,” he stressed. The envoy stated that his initiative encompasses large segments of Libyan society, such as effective political and security powers, parties, civil society groups and representatives of women and the youth.
The UN mission will not play a role in choosing who represents these segments, clarified Bathily.
Moreover, he said his initiative puts forward a flexible and non-traditional work mechanism known as shuttle diplomacy. He stressed that he will personally ensure that the approach is successful in order to help the Libyans reach national understandings over the most important issues needed to hold the elections.
The polls will primarily focus on electing a new leadership for the country, he went on to say. This demands that everyone be involved in the electoral process.
Asked if the decisions produced by his initiative will be binding to all parties, the envoy responded that the outcomes will be legitimate because they will enjoy national consensus and reflect everyone’s commitment to their political and moral responsibilities.
Asked if parliamentary elections alone will be held should the parties fail to agree on the presidential elections, the envoy said the UN supports any broad Libyan agreement that puts the country on the path of recovery, restores legitimacy to state institutions, and leads to sustainable peace and stability, development and reconstruction.
Resolving the current crises demands agreement on all pending disputes, he remarked.
Bathily revealed that he has so far sensed that the presidential and parliamentary elections will be held before the end of the year, citing the heavy turnout of citizens registering their names on voter lists and support from the international community.
Should the elections be successfully held, then they will restore the legitimacy of the country’s institutions, he stressed.
Furthermore, he explained that his initiative, in order to gain time, builds on the agreements reached between the parliament and High Council of State.
The envoy said he offered to provide technical and logistic support and necessary expertise to support the work of the 6+6 committee that is tasked with providing the legal foundation for the elections and drafting electoral laws.
His initiative also sheds light on the need to address issues that are a source of concern, such as agreement on the transparent management of national resources and ensuring that candidates run in a fair race.
On the factors that will ensure the success of the elections, Bathily underscored the importance of security. Candidates should be protected and free to move across Libya. They should be allowed to freely hold their electoral campaigns and meet with voters away from intimidation.
Similarly, the voters should be allowed to carry out their national duties in a secure environment away from fear and intimidation.
Another important element in ensuring the success of the elections is the candidates’ prior pledge that they would accept the results of the polls, added Bathily. They will have the right to appeal results through recognized legal methods.
Candidates must also pledge to avoid incitement and hate speech and steer clear of methods that would bring into question the integrity of the polls, he told Asharq Al-Awsat. Electoral platforms must prioritize a united Libya and respect of its sovereignty.
A transparent government mechanism to monitor the public expenditure is needed to ensure fair electoral competition, he went on to say. State resources must not be used for electoral purposes or to give favor to one candidate over another.
Moreover, in order to ensure fair competition, officials in office seeking to run in the polls must resign ahead of the elections.
These are all issues the Libyans must agree upon before a roadmap for the elections is put in place in June, said the envoy.
Ensuring that the elections are a success starts now and will carry on even after they are held, Bathily remarked.
Asked if the presence of foreign forces and mercenaries will be an obstacle in holding the elections, the envoy replied that their deployment is a problem that worries the Libyans, neighboring countries and entire international community.
The extent to which these forces are a threat depends on the Libyans themselves and how committed they are to the security agreements and desire to unify their state institutions, including the military and security forces, he continued.
The UN mission in Libya and several members of the international community are ready to help Libya in the withdrawal of fighters and mercenaries so that the country’s sovereignty can be restored, he added.
Bathily spoke of progress being made in the withdrawal, crediting the efforts to the joint military committee and cooperation from some concerned countries, such as Sudan, Niger and Chad.
Returning to the elections, the envoy noted that Libyan parties have a tendency to shirk their responsibilities and to obstruct the polls. They tend to blame others for the obstruction. This is not a constructive approach. The time for blaming others is over. Now is the time to meet the aspirations of the voters.
On the failure to hold the elections that were set for December 2021, the envoy said everyone was to blame, one way or another.
The delay of the polls suited the “de facto parties”, he noted. This is a fact that has not escaped the Libyans. The current situation only benefits a few people.
In order to avoid a repetition of what happened in 2021, the envoy explained that his initiative seeks to work in parallel with the 6+6 committee on all security, political and technical issues related to the elections.