Experts warn upcoming Libyan elections unlikely to heal rifts

Experts warn upcoming Libyan elections unlikely to heal rifts
Delegates take part in an international conference to support the stability of Libya ahead of the country's presidential elections in December, in Tripoli, Libya, October 21, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 December 2021

Experts warn upcoming Libyan elections unlikely to heal rifts

Experts warn upcoming Libyan elections unlikely to heal rifts
  • Armed groups have reportedly already strongarmed voters at polling stations and the full list of candidates has still not been finalized

LONDON: The political situation in Libya will remain unstable whether or not planned elections go ahead later this month, experts have warned, pointing to legal, political, and security failings that endanger stability in the near future.

In an event hosted Thursday by London think-tank Chatham House and attended by Arab News, a panel of speakers outlined their grim predictions for the future of Libya’s political roadmap.

Wolfram Lacher, senior associate at the German Institute for International Affairs, warned that the political situation is even worse than in the lead-up to the 2014 election, which ultimately saw the eruption of conflict between Tripoli and Benghazi-based parties.

“The current situation is immensely more problematic than it was in 2014. It’s not comparable at all,” said Lacher.

Parliamentary and presidential elections are planned for Dec. 24 for the first time since the cessation of hostilities in a civil war between the Government of National Unity’s Tripoli-based forces, the Government of National Accordand Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, based in Benghazi.

Lacher explained that the years of division that ensued during that civil war have led to a more divided country than in pre-2014.

The creation of rival administrations, Lacher said, “essentially led to the whole constitutional architecture of Libya breaking down. There is no basis anymore than anyone agrees on.”

He continued: “We’ve had two civil wars in Libya since (2014) that have inflicted deep rifts on the social fabric. The militias have grown incredibly powerful since 2014, and much more politically involved.”

But Lacher warned that the legal process convened to run this month’s elections actually threatens to enflame these divisions, not heal them — as the election was intended to do.

Libyan authorities are currently embroiled in a dispute over the legal basis upon which certain candidates, such as former Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, could run. Some candidates have argued that Dbeibeh should be barred from running for President because he did not comply with laws that force officials to resign a minimum of three months before an election takes place.

But these ostensibly legal technical issues — that appear administrative in nature — have an important role in deciding the outcome of the vote itself, as well as the political reality and intra-Libyan dynamics in the days following the vote.

Experts warned that militias and armed factions could refuse to accept the vote if it does not go their way, and use legal issues, such as certain candidates being allowed to run, as grounds to delegitimize the entire process. It is not clear what would happen if losing candidates choose to do this.

Zahraa Langhi, member of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, told participants that both the LNA and GNA are currently benefitting from a political stalemate in Libya, and so they have no true interest in seeing a free and fair election carried out.

“The current political stalemate, the political fragmentation — all these forces are benefitting from it,” Langhi said, explaining that any delay in the election could “reward” those who spoil the election’s integrity.

She also said that interim governments, convened as part of international multilateral measures, “failed miserably” to rectify Libya’s political fragmentation — despite that objective being a “major, basic milestone in the roadmap to creating national unity.”

Langhi lamented a failure by the UN to engage effectively with actors on the ground in Libya.

“The (UN) special envoy is leaving (his post) in a couple of days, leaving the whole process without oversight.”

She said that the UN has left the issue of vetting candidates — fundamentally important to a safe and secure election — to Libya’s judiciary, which she believes has “failed to address the issue.”

Now Libyans are left with a series of candidates that Langhi said do not provide any real choice for Libyans, the most prominent of which are former Prime Minister Dbeibeh, former warlord Haftar, and possibly even Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi — son of late dictator Muammar Qaddafi. “This cannot continue,” she said.

But Otman Gajiji, former chairman of the Libyan High National Election Commission, cast doubt on the possibility that Libyans will manage to vote freely and fairly at all.

Not only do Libyans not have enough time to familiarize themselves with the dozens of candidates currently in the running for election, he said, but a series of attacks on polling stations are a grim omen for voting day.

“There are new unofficial reports that four polling stations were attacked by armed groups in Aziziya, and one was in Tripoli — all voter cards, or most of the voter cards, were taken by these armed groups. For me that is a very bad sign,” Gajiji said.

He added: “We are 22 days, three weeks, ahead of the elections. Such events are not a good indicator for the near future, or for the future of the elections.”


Sudanese forces open fire on anti-coup protests, killing 3

Sudanese forces open fire on anti-coup protests, killing 3
Updated 32 sec ago

Sudanese forces open fire on anti-coup protests, killing 3

Sudanese forces open fire on anti-coup protests, killing 3
  • Monday’s deaths bring to at least 67 the number of people killed in near-daily demonstrations in the capital of Khartoum and other cities and towns in Sudan
  • Activist Nazim Sirag said three protesters were killed when security forces opened fire to break up a march in Khartoum — several others were wounded by gunshots

CAIRO: Sudanese security forces opened fire on protesters Monday, killing at least three people and wounding several as thousands took to the streets in Khartoum and elsewhere in the country to denounce an October military coup, activists said.
The military takeover has scuttled hopes of a peaceful transition to democracy in Sudan, more than two years after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir in April 2019.
The turmoil has been amplified after Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok stepped down earlier this month. Hamdok resigned after his efforts to bridge the gap between the generals and the country’s pro-democracy movement failed.
Monday’s deaths bring to at least 67 the number of people killed in near-daily demonstrations in the capital of Khartoum and other cities and towns in Sudan.
Footage circulating online shows protesters, mostly young people, marching in the streets of Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman. There were also protests in Port Sudan, Wad Madani Obaid and the western Darfur region.
Activist Nazim Sirag said three protesters were killed when security forces opened fire to break up a march in Khartoum. He said several others were wounded by gunshots.
The Sudan Doctors Committee, which is part of the pro-democracy movement, also reported the deaths and said dozens of others were wounded Monday in Khartoum.
The fatalities will likely further complicate UN efforts to find a way out of the ongoing crisis. The United Nations and Western governments have widely condemned the crackdown on protesters.
The demonstrations are called by the Sudanese Professionals Association and the Resistance Committees, which were the backbone of the uprising against Al-Bashir. The two groups reject negotiations with the military, insisting it hand over power to a fully civilian government to lead the transition.
The generals, meanwhile, reject the protesters’ demands, saying that power will be handed over only to an elected government.


Sudan to establish anti-terrorism force — Sovereign Council

Sudan to establish anti-terrorism force — Sovereign Council
Updated 8 sec ago

Sudan to establish anti-terrorism force — Sovereign Council

Sudan to establish anti-terrorism force — Sovereign Council
  • Huge crowds have regularly taken to the streets demanding a return to civilian rule since a military coup on Oct. 25

Sudan’s Sovereign Council is to establish an anti-terrorism force to counter “potential threats,” it said in a statement on Monday.
Huge crowds have regularly taken to the streets demanding a return to civilian rule since a military coup on Oct. 25 ended a power-sharing arrangement that began after autocrat Omar Al-Bashir was toppled by a popular uprising in 2019.


Two-year suspension for Jordan MP Al-Riyati after ‘violent, indecent behavior’

Two-year suspension for Jordan MP Al-Riyati after ‘violent, indecent behavior’
Updated 19 min 41 sec ago

Two-year suspension for Jordan MP Al-Riyati after ‘violent, indecent behavior’

Two-year suspension for Jordan MP Al-Riyati after ‘violent, indecent behavior’
  • Representative says fisticuffs ‘a defense of God and honor of female colleague’

AMMAN: Jordanian MPs on Monday imposed a two-year suspension on their colleague Hassan Al-Riyati for “violent and indecent behavior” during the lower house’s session on constitutional amendments.

A majority of lawmakers voted in favor of the parliamentary disciplinary committee’s recommendation to impose a two-year membership freeze on Al-Riyati, a representative of Jordan’s southern port city of Aqaba.

Al-Riyati was among three other MPs who engaged in fisticuffs when the chamber descended into a mass brawl on Dec. 28 last year following a heated discussion over controversial constitutional amendments.

The incident began after a session opened with a discussion on proposed constitutional amendments, under which the term “female Jordanians” was added to the title of the second chapter of the constitution on Jordanians’ rights and duties.

Some MPs, especially women, claimed that the amendment will create discrimination between Jordanians based on gender.

The heated discussion ignited verbal altercations and an exchange of insults between House Speaker Abdul Karim Dughmi and Deputy Suleiman Abu Yahya, who accused Dughmi of an “inability to run the show.”

In press remarks following Monday’s session, Al-Riyati described the decision to suspend him as “unfair and biased,” adding that the disciplinary committee’s report on the case was “inaccurate and faulty.”

Al-Riyati said that the committee recommended no disciplinary measures against other lawmakers who were also involved in the brawl.

“No single punishment was imposed on the MPs who insulted God and our female colleague using blasphemous and indecent behavior,” Al-Riyati added.

The lawmaker said that he would challenge the suspension decision or would resign. “All options are on the table now, but I have not made up my mind yet.”

Following the session on Dec. 28, Al-Riyati was given a hero’s welcome by his supporters in Aqaba, about 300 kilometers south of the capital, Amman.

At the time, the deputy justified his violent behavior during the session as “a defense of God and the honor of his female colleague.”


Turkish court rules to keep philanthropist Kavala in prison

Turkish court rules to keep philanthropist Kavala in prison
Updated 17 January 2022

Turkish court rules to keep philanthropist Kavala in prison

Turkish court rules to keep philanthropist Kavala in prison
  • The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2019 that Kavala’s rights had been violated and ordered his release — but Turkey has repeatedly refused to do so
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly disdains Kavala, accusing him of being the ‘Turkish leg’ of billionaire US philanthropist George Soros

ISTANBUL: A Turkish court ruled Monday that prominent Turkish civil rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala should stay in prison, despite his more than four years in pre-trial detention.
The hearing took place as a Council of Europe deadline that could trigger infringement procedures looms. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2019 that Kavala’s rights had been violated and ordered his release. But Turkey has repeatedly refused to do so.
Kavala, who is in Silivri prison on the outskirts of Istanbul, did not participate in the hearing in line with an October statement that he would no longer attend trials via video conference because he didn’t have faith the court would deliver a fair trial.

Kavala, 64, is accused of financing nationwide anti-government protests in 2013, attempting to overthrow the government by helping orchestrate a coup attempt three years later and espionage. He denies the charges, which carry a life sentence without parole.
He was acquitted in February 2020 of charges in connection with the 2013 Gezi Park protests. As supporters awaited his release, Kavala was rearrested on new charges. The acquittal was later overturned and linked to charges relating to the 2016 coup attempt, which the Turkish government blames on the network of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who denies any ties to the coup.
That trial is now part of a merged case involving 51 other defendants, including fans of the Besiktas soccer club who were acquitted six years ago of charges related to the Gezi protests before that decision also was overturned. Kavala is the only jailed defendant.
Kavala’s lawyer, Koksal Bayraktar, had demanded his release.
“His continued imprisonment for 1,539 days is the continuation of lawlessness identified by the European Court of Human Rights,” Bayraktar said. “End this lawlessness today so our client gets his freedom.”
Taksim Solidarity, a group defending the small Gezi Park in central Istanbul, said before the third hearing that the peaceful 2013 protests, which were based on constitutional rights allowing citizens to demand democracy, couldn’t be tarnished through the judiciary.
In October, Kavala’s case also caused a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and 10 Western countries, including the United States, France and Germany, after they called for his release on the fourth anniversary of his imprisonment.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly disdains Kavala, accusing him of being the “Turkish leg” of billionaire US philanthropist George Soros, whom Erdogan alleges has been behind insurrections in many countries. He threatened to expel Western envoys for meddling in Turkey’s internal affairs.
The European Court of Human Rights’ 2019 decision said Kavala’s imprisonment aimed to silence him and other human rights defenders and wasn’t supported by evidence of an offense.
The Council of Europe, a 47-member bloc that upholds human rights, notified Turkey in December that it intended to refer the case to the court to determine whether Turkey refused to abide by final judgments, which are binding. It called on Turkey to release Kavala immediately and conclude the criminal procedures without delay. It asked Turkey to submit its views by Jan. 19 before a Feb. 2 session of the council.
Kavala is the founder of a nonprofit organization, Anadolu Kultur, which focuses on cultural and artistic projects promoting peace and dialogue.
The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 21.


Egypt, Algeria discuss foreign interference in Libyan affairs

Egypt, Algeria discuss foreign interference in Libyan affairs
Updated 17 January 2022

Egypt, Algeria discuss foreign interference in Libyan affairs

Egypt, Algeria discuss foreign interference in Libyan affairs
  • FMs call for exit of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libyan territory during talks held in Cairo
  • Meeting touched on several issues of mutual interest, including developments in Sudan, Mali, and the Sahel and Sahara region

CAIRO: Egypt and Algeria agreed on the necessity of stopping any foreign interference in the affairs of Libya and the exit of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libyan territory during talks held in Cairo between Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra.

Lamamra’s visit to Cairo, which began on Sunday, is the second in his capacity as a special envoy of Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

Egypt is the third Arab stop in the Algerian foreign minister’s Arab tour, which he began in Saudi Arabia with the delivery of a written message from Tebboune to King Salman. Abu Dhabi was the second Arab capital Lamamra visited.

During the meeting, Ambassador Ahmed Hafez, the official spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, stated that the two ministers expressed pride in the relations between Egypt and Algeria and a desire to continue strengthening cooperation across various fields, including in economic and investment opportunities.

He added that the meeting touched on several issues of mutual interest, including developments in Sudan, Mali, and the Sahel and Sahara region. The two ministers stressed the need to coordinate within a framework of joint African action in a way that enhances efforts to achieve peace, security and prosperity on the continent, especially in light of the various security challenges.

They also stressed the importance of advancing Arab efforts in a similar way within the framework of the Arab League.