In less than one month, the world will be curiously watching about 2.5 million Libyan voters lined up at ballot stations to decide about their future political representatives in parliament and presidency. Whether the upcoming elections in Libya will be successfully implemented is still unlikely, despite huge pressures from the international community to make the elections happen on due time.
The main goal of the elections is to bring the long-aspired sense of security and stability to Libya, the North African country that has been suffering from civil war, armed militia, and terrorism for almost a decade. However, the indirect, but greater, goal of stabilizing Libya through a democratic process is to bring the regions influenced by Libya’s turmoil back to sanity under the international law and norms. That includes North Africa, central Africa, and the eastern Mediterranean.
Let’s hope the voting scene will be as peaceful and democratic as the international community desires it to be. The success of this electoral process in installing a new stable system of governance will open the doors of a prosperous future for the Libyan people. This will consequently enhance the stability and security in north and central Africa, as well as in the eastern Mediterranean region. However, all these remain flowery wishes, as long as the deep divisions among the Libyan tribes and political factions, in eastern and western territories, has not been resolved, yet.
The initial list of potential presidential candidates, who registered themselves so far, is a clear indicator on that. The list includes the biggest troublemakers in Libya, from both Benghazi and Tripoli. On the top of the list is General Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army (LNA), who has a strong hold on eastern and southern territories. Haftar is already accused of planning mass killings of Libyan people in the past years. Despite that, the elastic election law did not prevent him from running.
The same thing could be said about Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, who appeared at the candidates’ registration station, wearing the iconic gown and turban of his father, former president Muammar Gaddafi, who was removed from power and killed by rebels during the Arab Spring years. Meanwhile, it is ironic to see Aguila Saleh, Parliament Speaker and a close ally to Haftar, decide to join the race for the presidential seat. Allegedly, Aguila Saleh tailored the Election Law, released in October, to fit Haftar.
With these types of candidates, we can hardly expect anything good to come out of these elections. The victory of any of them is going to be disastrous for Libya’s future and will eventually lead to another state failure, that may be very difficult to resolve this time. At the same time, there is not guarantee that they will accept the voting results without turning it into a fight that may recreate the civil war. I can hardly imagine that Haftar will, for example, accept losing in this election without trying to raise hell against Tripoli as he did before, in 2019 and beyond. In that sense, there is no guarantee that these elections, in that format, are going to achieve the main goal of the political process; that is, bringing long-term security and stability to Libya and the Libyan people.
Elections and voting are democratic practices that cannot stand still on the shaking ground of the extremely divided political scene in Libya. The type of democracy, which is dependent on ballot boxes, is a political practice that requires a tough ground of social unity and national security to flourish upon. Otherwise, it may fail in a way that destroys the whole political solution process and magnifies the many existing tragedies of Libya.