Africa. The Libyan presidential election is already creating tensions

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Power attracts envy in Libya. On Monday, General Khalifa Haftar (78) announced his candidacy for the presidential election. An actor in the civil war that has raged since the French and Western intervention to oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the applicant is the strong man of Cyrenaica, an eastern region rich in oil resources. The one who declared, in 2018, to Jeune Afrique, that “today’s Libya is not yet ripe for democracy”, now assures not to run “after power”, but to lead the people “in this period crucial to glory, progress and prosperity ”. His candidacy will not please everyone in a Libya fragmented between Cyrenaica, the disputed South, and the west of the country held by the institutions recognized by the United Nations. Indeed, in 2019 and 2020, Khalifa Haftar launched a military offensive to seize the capital, Tripoli.

Another divisional candidacy, which was announced on Sunday, that of Saif Al Islam Gaddafi (49). The latter is none other than the son of the ex-dictator. He is influential in the south of the country, but remains prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.

These two candidacies aroused ire in other areas of the country. Protests were recorded in the capital – which keeps the memory of the Haftar attack – but also in Misrata or Zaouïa, where a committee said it refused applications from people “wanted by justice” – an allusion to the situation of Saif Al Islam Gaddafi.

An electoral law contested one month before the poll

Yet it is on elections that promise to be contested that the Paris conference, organized under the leadership of Emmanuel Macron, bet last Friday to restore order to the Libyan chaos. The participants – representatives from France, Italy, Germany, Russia, the United States, Morocco and Algeria, in particular – called for “free” and “credible” elections. Not sure they are. An electoral process should start on the 24th, but first… the disputed electoral law must be revised. It prevents the participation in the ballot of the military. Haftar therefore put himself in suspense from the Libyan National Army, which he leads, on September 23. The electoral rule also prohibits the participation of members of the Government of National Unity, installed in February by the UN, for fear that the latter will serve as a political springboard. However, the Prime Minister, Abdulhamid Al Dabaiba (64), makes no secret of wanting to participate in the deadline.

The lingering shadow of foreign interference

At the end of the ballot, the elected president and parliament will have to be accepted across the country. Nothing is less certain in view of the candidates’ liabilities. The main shadow hanging over “inclusive” elections and reunification of the country is that of foreign interference. Russia and Cairo, godfathers of Khalifa Haftar, are very influential in the east. Moscow maintains its mercenaries from the Wagner company there. To the west, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey is very present. She was not represented at the Paris conference, but she can claim to have defended the institutions against Haftar’s offensive in 2019 and 2020. Europeans are also divided: Paris, which saw in him a support in the fight against jihadism has long been close to Haftar; Rome, for its part, supported the government of Tripoli, the only one recognized by the UN.

During the conference, it was therefore decided to take sanctions – under the aegis of the UN – against those who would obstruct the electoral process. And it was requested a departure of the mercenaries. Emmanuel Macron was able to announce the departure of 300 of them. Not sure that the account is there.

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