While Libya is scheduled to hold its general election in December this year, experts are suggesting holding of the election under constitutional provisions. Writes Abdullah Al-Kabir
While the deadline is approaching for the High National Elections Commission (HNEC) to receive the constitutional basis for the December elections so that it can start implementing them, the disputes still exist, and the parties have not reached an acceptable consensus on the basis for the elections, there does not seem to be any hope of reaching a final vision to be adopted by the House of Representatives (HoR) and referred to the HNEC.
The continuation of the dispute between the High Council of State (HCS) and the HoR is expected in view of previous experiences in which they failed to resolve the outstanding problems between them. However, the inability of the Political Dialogue Forum to resolve the issue of the constitutional base was not expected, because the forum succeeded in drawing a roadmap for the next stage and it resolved the issue of renewing the legitimacy of the authority by setting the date of the elections, then deciding the choice of the new authority and forming the new presidential council with the national unity government. It was not an easy step, given the intensity of the conflict, the competing rivalries, and the scale of international interventions.
The UN envoy, Jan Kubis, expressed his disappointment at the forum’s failure to define the constitutional base, announcing the return to the House of Representatives, calling on it to complete it within two weeks, and because the division continues in the HoR, and the reluctance of more than half of its MPs to attend sessions even after its unification, and the urgent disagreements between its speaker and first deputy, it is not expected that it will succeed in achieving this entitlement, and this is the first obstacle.
The second obstacle is the need to agree with the HCS on it before adopting it, and referring it to the UN mission and the HNEC. The position of the HCS or its proposals is completely different from the vision of the Speaker of the HoR and the MPs loyal to him, who may adopt a constitutional base that suits their aspirations, without regard to the rejection of the HCS and the rest of the MPs, or the legality of the session, which may open the door to challenge it before the judiciary, and the legitimacy remains subject to controversy even if the elections were held. And without ignoring the popular reluctance to participate in it, or for some influential parties to forcibly disrupt it in some electoral districts, if the constitutional base is adopted without broad popular consensus and support.
Parallel to this friction and disagreement, members of the Constitution Committee are active with a number of civil society organizations in calling for the draft constitution to be put to a referendum before the elections. Despite the lack of enthusiasm of the UN mission and the major powers for this approach and their focus on holding elections on a constitutional basis on which the main political forces agree, the support of large sectors for this approach may push them to adopt it with the continued failure of the Political Dialogue Forum Committee, or the HoR and the HCS to reach consensus.
In conclusion, we are about three or four proposals for the election rule. Legislative elections only, or legislative and presidential elections, without deciding the method of electing the president directly from the people or from the HoR after his election, adoption of the constitution as a temporary constitutional basis for a single parliamentary session, during which the newly elected council will address the draft and put it to a referendum. The last proposal has the support of a good number of members of the HoR and the HCS.
It is unlikely that the dispute will be resolved and a constitutional base approved on the date set by the HNEC. The gap is wide and there is little time left. The Speaker of the HoR did not show the required interest, so his call for the parliament to convene next Monday, the fourteenth of this month, did not include on its agenda a discussion of this entitlement. Rather, the discussion will be about the budget and sovereign positions, which means more procrastination and delay.
Time is pressing, and the obstacles in the way of the constitutional base are numerous, and the Berlin II conference on the Libyan crisis, scheduled to be held on the 23rd of this month, may not find anything to discuss in the election item if its agenda does not include the constitutional base, and then the conference will be between two options. The first is the agreement of those present to give another deadline to the Libyan parties to provide this base, with the possibility of delaying the date of the elections by a few months. The other is to agree on a legislative and presidential procedure on time without delay, and to invite the United Nations to supervise it in cooperation with the HNEC. And waving obstacles in the face of obstructionists.
Abdullah Al-Kabir, is a columnist who writes on Libyan and Arab affairs
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