UN endorses elections for Libya by end of 2018

UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman speaks during a press conference in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Jan. 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 10 January 2018
0

UN endorses elections for Libya by end of 2018

TRIPOLI: The UN is committed to helping Libya organize elections by the end of this year, encouraged by the rate at which Libyans have been registering to vote, a top UN official said on Wednesday.
The UN hopes elections can help stabilize Libya, which was thrown into turmoil after long-time leader Muammar Qaddafi was toppled in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.
Holding elections is a major challenge in a country still split among military and political factions, and where rival governments have claimed authority since the result of a 2014 vote was disputed. Security in many parts of Libya is poor.
A new electoral law would likely have to be agreed and a referendum on a constitution held before national polls.
A UN effort launched in September aims to amend a December 2015 peace plan for Libya and pave the way for a vote, but has so far produced no deal on how to move toward one.
Jeffrey Feltman, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the UN saw elections this year as a route to a “peaceful and inclusive end to the transition phase.”
“The goal is a Libyan goal: to end the transition phase with an inclusive peaceful process that produces a unified government that is a product of the will of the Libyan people,” Feltman told reporters in Tripoli after meeting Fayez Seraj, head of the internationally recognized government.
“I had the opportunity to talk to the prime minister about the commitment of the secretary-general, the hope of the United Nations, to see inclusive elections take place in 2018, and to pledge the support of the United Nations to support those elections.”
Feltman said the UN had been “very encouraged” by the apparent enthusiasm for elections, pointing to around half a million new voters who have signed up since voter registration was opened in early December.
“Public opinion poll after public opinion poll demonstrate the strong support of the majority of Libyans from all parts of the country to be able to participate in credible elections and to be able to participate in credible elections in this year,” he said.
Libya’s election commission says a total of 1,965,450 people are now registered to vote, out of a population of more than 6 million. Turnout in the 2014 election was just 630,000. The polls led to a battle for control of Tripoli, and to rival governments being set up in the capital and in eastern Libya.
The government in the east is aligned with powerful military commander Khalifa Haftar, a likely contender in any presidential poll.


Militant rocket fire kills 12 civilians in Syria: state media

Updated 50 min 21 sec ago
0

Militant rocket fire kills 12 civilians in Syria: state media

  • Former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham being blamed for the attack

DAMASCUS: Rocket fire has killed 12 civilians in a regime-held village in northwestern Syria, state news agency SANA has said blaming former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham for the attack.

SANA said 15 people were also wounded late Sunday in the attack on Al-Wadihi village south of Aleppo city and said HTS, which controls parts of Aleppo’s countryside as well as most of neighboring Idlib, was responsible.

It published graphic pictures purporting to show some of the victims in a hospital in the aftermath of the attack, including of bandaged men and children lying on stretchers, thick blankets covering their bodies.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the same death toll — saying five children were among those killed — and also blamed militants based in rural Aleppo for the attack.

But the Britain-based monitor did not specify whether HTS or other allied militant groups were responsible.

The attack came as Syrian government forces have been locked in clashes with HTS fighters in nearby Hama province.

More than 35 combatants, mostly regime forces, were killed on Saturday in battles in Hama’s countryside, according to the Observatory.

Parts of Aleppo, Hama and Idlib are supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented as militants refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, HTS extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian government and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.