A Libyan parliamentary committee has said it has become “impossible” to hold a long-awaited presidential vote on Friday as scheduled, in a blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in the oil-rich country.
It was the first official statement that the vote would not go ahead, although the news had been widely expected amid mounting challenges and calls for a delay.
A letter to the parliamentary speaker, Aguila Saleh, from al-Hadi al-Sagheir, the head of a committee tasked to follow the electoral process, said the group had found “it is impossible to hold the election as scheduled”. He did not specify whether another date had been set or if the vote had been cancelled altogether.
The election commission disbanded electoral committees late on Tuesday, and it never named a final list of candidates. About 100 people had put themselves forward, including several high-profile individuals who were banned from the race – including the son of the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Sagheir said his committee reached its conclusion after “reviewing technical, security and judicial reports”. He urged Saleh, who suspended his duties to join the presidential race, to return to his job so he could help “redraw a roadmap” to revive the political process.
The vote has faced many challenges, including disputes over the laws governing the elections, and occasional infighting among armed groups. Other obstacles include a long-running rift between the country’s east and west, and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and troops.
Libya plunged into turmoil after a Nato-backed uprising in 2011 and split between rival governments – one in the east, backed by the military commander Khalifa Haftar, and a UN-supported administration in the capital, Tripoli, in the west. Each side is supported by a variety of militias and foreign powers.
In April 2019, Haftar and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive to try to capture Tripoli. His campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the UN-backed government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.
A ceasefire in October 2020 led to the formation of a transitional government and elections were scheduled for 24 December. The fate of that government is now unclear, as the parliamentary committee said the government’s mandate would end on that date.