The U.N. Security Council threatened sanctions Wednesday against spoilers in Libya’s presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for December 24.
“The Security Council recalls that individuals or entities who threaten the peace, stability or security of Libya or obstruct or undermine the successful completion of its political transition, including by obstructing or undermining the elections, may be designated for its sanctions,” the 15-nation council said in a presidential statement.
The council also called on all Libyan stakeholders to respect the results of the vote and to work together “in the spirit of unity and compromise” afterward for a peaceful transfer of power.
Additionally, members issued a united call for countries to respect the arms embargo imposed against Libya and for all foreign fighters and mercenaries to immediately leave the country. Instability, fighting and foreign interference have proliferated in Libya since the ouster and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Libya is to hold elections in exactly one month — 70 years to the day since the country declared independence in 1951. The head of the High National Election Commission, or HNEC, said Tuesday that 98 people had registered by the deadline to run for president, a list that includes a son of Gadhafi and the commander of an eastern-based militia that tried to seize the capital, Tripoli, in 2019, as well as two female hopefuls.
On Wednesday, it was reported that Gadhafi, who is wanted on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court at The Hague, was among 25 candidates whose bids have been rejected by the HNEC.
More than 2,000 hopefuls have registered so far to run for parliamentary seats, including 276 women. That registration is open until December 7.
Earlier this month, the HNEC began distributing voter cards to the more than 2.8 million registered voters, with more than 64% of eligible voters having received them so far.
The HNEC has confirmed the first round of voting in both polls will be December 24, with a second round 50 days later, to accommodate counting and tabulating the results, as well as possible electoral challenges and appeals. The final results of both elections will be announced simultaneously.
Envoy abruptly resigns
It was also announced Tuesday the U.N.’s top diplomat for Libya, Jan Kubis, is stepping down. Kubis addressed his abrupt departure after less than a year in the post, in what was likely his final briefing to the council, via a video call from Tripoli.
He said he favors splitting the role of special envoy and head of the U.N. Support Mission in Libya, UNSMIL, into two jobs with the head of UNSMIL being located in Tripoli. This is something that had been discussed earlier but not acted on.
“In order to create conditions for this on 17 November 2021, I tendered my resignation,” he told the council. “In the resignation letter, I also confirmed my readiness to continue as the special envoy for a transitional period to ensure business continuity provided that it is a feasible option.”
However, he said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres accepted his resignation in a letter, effective December 10 before the elections.
“We will continue to work with him while we're seeking a successor,” U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said of Kubis when asked about the secretary-general’s choice of date for his departure.
The previous envoy, Ghassan Salame, left the post in March 2020 citing stress on his health, and it took more than a year to find his successor. Now the secretary-general has set himself the Herculean task of finding a new envoy who is agreeable to both of the Libyan parties and the Security Council in less than three weeks.
In his parting briefing, Kubis said the political climate in the country remains “heavily polarized,” including tensions over the existing legal framework for the elections and the eligibility of some candidates.
“Libya continues to be at a delicate and fragile juncture on its path to unity and stability through the ballot boxes,” Kubis said. “While risks associated with the ongoing political polarization around the elections are evident and present, not holding the elections could gravely deteriorate the situation in the country and could lead to further division and conflict.”
Some information for this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.