Consistent Efforts, Zero Returns: 2021 Libya Elections Face Crisis
Political and military institutions in Libya have recurrently come at crossroads with contradictory interests since 2014.
After six years of unrest and foreign-backed assaults on the capital, Libya reached a settlement with a unified interim Government of National Unity headed by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dabaiba.
It was a historic achievement for a country that has been gripped by political feuds and intermittent conflicts for years.
The military coalition is also working with the new government, which is a good sign for Libya elections. However, enormous challenges remain as the country is heading towards its presidential election in December 2021 without any legal framework to define the way forward.
The United Nations sponsored a five-day talk among different stakeholders involved in the country, which unfortunately ended without reaching any reasonable conclusion.
Prime Minister Dabaiba faces the herculean challenge of reunifying the deeply divided country, with many external actors actively taking part in the internal affairs of Libya.
As the general public awaits December 2021 for the Libya election, immediate actions are needed for the peaceful transition of power.
Unfair Electoral Framework: The Primary Problem Ahead of Libya Elections of 2021
Since the revolution against Al-Gadhafi, Libya is working on a constitutional deceleration presented by an unelected body of the National Transitional Council.
Despite some minimal scale developments, the country struggles to get a proper framework that could pave the way for proper Libya elections.
In 2018, the House of Representatives of Libya approved a law containing a framework for the electoral process, along with several other constitutional amendments to the 2011 constitutional declaration.
However, the efforts went in vain as the legislators saw complications.
Consistent Efforts, No Results: Libya's Political Story
Members of the newly elected interim lawmaking body of Libya pledged to form a new constitution in the country to define the electoral process.
The 75 members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) were nominated under the umbrella of the United States to get the job done.
The task of preparing the grounds for free and fair election was on the shoulders of the Prime Minister and three-member Presidential Council.
Unfortunately, the five days of talks have ended without reaching any conclusion. Participants of the UN-sponsored talks session presented different proposals on the constitution, but none was acceptable to the whole committee.
It is true that a lot of effort has been made for Libya elections this time; however, the stalemate is resulting in political chaos.
The United States mission urged the participants to reach a comprise that could bring them closer to each other.
United Nations delegates also proposed to keep the current government in power while only holding legislative elections.
This proposal was highly criticized by several members of LPDF, and rightly so.
The elections are part and parcel of democracy and should be held regularly to keep the democratic process smooth.
The United States Special Envoy to Libya, Richard Norland, accused several members of the forum of deliberately prolonging the constitutional process so that the Libyan election could be prolonged.
Nonetheless, the responsibility for all the delays is on the shoulders of the ruling elite. Despite knowing that Libya elections are on the cards, the ruling class of the country has failed to achieve a workable pathway to reduce the pervasive chaos.
Lack of Political Pluralism: Libyan Voices in Danger
Political pluralism calls for the dispersion of power among a variety of economic and ideological pressure groups.
Pluralism assures that different functional and social groups enjoy a certain amount of autonomy. Political pluralism, along with participation, is one of the defining characteristics of functional democracies. Libya revolted against a dictator to achieve a functioning democracy, which is still a dream.
The political spectrum of Libya is controlled by influential armed groups. These groups greatly influence the political opinion of the people, hence shaping the popular perception.
Under such circumstances, Libya has failed to achieve political pluralism and participation, as a chaotic legal and security system does not allow for normal political competition.
It means that even if Libyan elections happen, democracy will remain a pipe dream to a great extent.
Undue systematic obstacles influence the rise and fall of competing parties and groups.
In the absence of a legal framework, the situation is expected to be the same in the upcoming Libyan elections.
Media Crisis: Libya Struggles to Know the Truth
Libya has a huge and diverse network of media outlets that operate both from inside and outside the country.
However, almost all media outlets in Libya are highly partisan, producing content in favor of one or the other political group.
Media outlets in Libya are responsible for propaganda and disinformation. The few journalists who try to carry out their job with honesty and sincerity are subjected to physical and mental abuse.
The situation is more or less the same as other African nations.
In 2020 a military court in Benghazi sentenced a freelance journalist working with a Turkey-based media outlet to 15 years in prison. Abuzreiba al-Zway was trying to report the ground situation in Libya but ended up behind bars.
The absence of free and independent media will contribute to increasing the political tension in the upcoming Libya election.
This bid of bias in the media discourse is damaging the true spirit of democracy in Libya and is likely to play a crucial role in upcoming elections as well.
Since the downfall of Muammar Gadhafi in Libya, external players have continuously influenced the political process in the country.
This foreign intervention has only contributed to further escalation of polarization in the country.
Russia is actively backing the House of Representatives in Libya to gain access to oil deals in the oil-rich nation.
Turkey is also playing a major role in establishing its presence in the region. The United States played a key role in the downfall of the Libyan dictator.
The involvement of Russia and Turkey in the region is seriously barring the efforts to establish a sense of long-lasting peace in the region.
They are also influencing political scenarios by providing funding in terms of money and militia to different groups so that their favorite party could seize control and provide them with favors.
Libya is not the only African country going to elections in the near future. Just like Zambia and Kenya, this country also needs a peaceful transition of power.
The need of the hour for all the overseas powers is to assure that democracy prevails in the country.
Only then a sense of trust would prevail among the citizens who have seen conflict the majority of their lives.