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Libyans Voice Frustration at Derailed Election


FILE - Seif al-Islam, right, the son and one-time heir apparent of late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi registers his candidacy for the country's presidential elections in Sabha, Libya, Nov. 14, 2021.

Libyans voiced anger at the delay to the presidential election that was planned for Friday, as factions and political leaders tussled over the perilous path ahead.

The election was part of a U.N.-backed process that also involved setting up an interim government earlier this year as steps toward ending the decade of chaos and violence since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Moammar Gadhafi.

In Benghazi, Wahbi Tarkhan, 81, said he and his wife had both registered for the election and were disappointed by the collapse of the process. "We were eagerly waiting for this day in our minds," he said.

Earlier this week, Libya's parliament said Friday's planned presidential election would not go ahead, leaving the internationally backed peace process in chaos and the fate of the interim government in doubt.

The electoral commission proposed pushing back the voting date by a month, confirming a delay that had been widely expected amid disputes over the rules, including the eligibility of several divisive candidates.

However, there is no wider agreement yet on the January 24 date the commission proposed, and the disputes over the election's legal basis and fundamental rules remain unresolved.

The 2014 parliament, aligned with eastern forces during the civil war, has set up a committee to meet on Monday to propose its own roadmap forward.

The fate of the interim Government of National Unity also will be a major source of dispute, with the parliament having withdrawn confidence from it in September.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has been in touch with members of a political dialogue that last year produced the existing roadmap that created the interim government and called for simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections.

U.N. special adviser Stephanie Williams said Thursday that during meetings across Libya she had consistently heard people voicing a desire for elections.

"I call upon the concerned institutions to honor and support the will of the 2.8 million Libyans who registered to vote," she said.

Any fresh effort to resume the electoral process will have to weigh the dangers inherent in a delay against the risks of again attempting an election without consensus on the rules.

Libya's last election in 2014 was the trigger for rival eastern and western factions to split apart into warring parallel administrations.

Musa al-Sulaimani, who has registered to stand for the parliamentary election, said he felt very frustrated by the delay.

"This was something the Libyan street resented," he said.

(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfali in Benghazi; writing by Angus McDowall; editing by Jane Merriman)

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