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Libya is gearing up for an election which should be held by the year’s end. Together with the cooperation of various member states, the United Nations is committed to helping with the organizing of these elections in the hope that stability will return to this important North African country.

A situation, that is very fluid and can change drastically from day to day.

This is no easy feat in a place still shackled by internal strife with several heavily armed groups roaming the country and with two rival governments, the results of feuds that broke out following the first post-Gaddafi election in 2014.

Libya with its vast oil deposits is a country that has been in turmoil and split politically and militarily ever since the NATO-led military intervention that toppled Muammar Gaddafi back in 2011.

So far indications have been encouraging as registration of Libyans to vote is reported to be going very well. Recent reports from the Libyan electoral commission indicate that close to two million Libyans are now registered to vote. Quite an encouraging sign when we remember that the turnout for the 2014 election was reported to be in the area of 630,000 voters from a population of more than six million.

The plan is that a new electoral law would have to be agreed upon together with a referendum on a constitution and this should pave the way for the vote.

Quite frankly, in the present state of affairs and with a target for elections to be held in 2018, the country is really not in a fit state to hold a free vote. A myriad of complicated obstacles exists that at present seem anything but easy to overcome.

On the other hand, elections apart, there is no other alternative in sight that the international community can bring to work which may lift Libya out of the quagmire it has dug itself in.

Libya is awash with weapons from the vast and varied stockpiles of weapons of the Gaddafi years, looted during the revolution. These have been augmented in recent years with a steady flow of other weaponry which has made its way through Libya’s vast but very porous borders.

This in no way minimises the fact that these weapons are in the hands of a numerous militia groups, some of who seem to enjoy the backing of foreign powers, and all this apart from tribal issues.

One must also add that there are two rival governments together with a dysfunctional parliament with United Nations recognition which, however, is hostile to the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli.

For all the determination the international community has shown in wanting to hold these elections, the only tangible step so far has been the voter registration. A new constitution has been drafted in hope of building a crucial foundation for the election process but there is no widespread consensus for this and efforts were made to have it blocked.

Lebanese academic Ghassan Salamé, the UN appointed envoy in Libya, is striving to implement an action plan with the primary objective of sowing stability in the north African nation on the brink of fragmentation. The main aim, through various steps, remains the election though some are sceptical on how much it will serve to bring stability with the last and only other election, that of 2012, resulting in increasing the fracture instead of healing it. This remains true especially in the absence of main institutions to uphold such a process as well as the glaring absence of a unified state security structure – essential pillars for a functioning and credible process that satisfies all and sundry.

As far as candidates go, although in the embryonic phase of the process, the list of presidential hopefuls is developing into a rather colourful one. Saif al-Islam, the late Muammar Gaddafi’s son, has put forward his name. One should remember here, that in the final years of the Gaddafi regime Saif al-Islam was being touted by some as a credible successor who could bring Libya out of its isolation and modernise the country. That being said the shadow of his past is also a divisive element. There is also the significant issue which finds him wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes committed against humanity in the early days of the Libyan revolution.

Other names on the potential presidents’ list include the prime minister of the UN-backed government in Tripoli Fayez al-Sarraj and the military commander in eastern Libya, Khalifa Haftar.

From a distance a stable, non-violent solution for all looks rather unlikely. However, at the end of it all, it is for the Libyan people to decide what direction the country should take. Its destiny is in their hands. Hopefully this may be the start of a process that leads towards peace and the stability it so deserves. It has happened before.

This article is submitted by the GeoPolitical Analysis Unit at Diplomatique | Expert for Corporate Dispatch.

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