Libyans chosen on electoral roll as UN envoy to Libya bows

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Nearly 100 Libyans, including a parade of politicians and warlords from the past decade of violence, have registered as presidential candidates for next month’s elections as the UN special envoy for the fragmented country has submitted his resignation.

Jan Kubis has decided to resign after only 10 months of work. With the presidential vote set for December 24, the UN “is working as quickly as possible to ensure continuity of leadership,” spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said during a press briefing at UN headquarters.

He did not give a reason for Kubis’ departure, but denied any quarrel with Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Geneva-based Kubis is still expected to brief the UN Security Council on Wednesday, as scheduled before his resignation.

Kubis, a former Slovakian foreign minister who previously held senior UN posts in Iraq and Afghanistan, became the head of the UN political mission in Libya in January, after the agency global sought for nearly a year to fill this sensitive position. One of the main candidates turned it down, some UN member countries objected to other suggestions, and there were changes in the post itself.

Libya plunged into turmoil after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed. The oil-rich nation then split between rival governments – one in the east, backed by putschist general Khalifa Haftar, and a UN-backed administration in Tripoli.

The UN-mediated talks led earlier this year to the formation of a transitional government intended to lead the country to the December elections. Among the candidates are Haftar, Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, Parliament Leader Aguila Saleh and Acting Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, who filed a request for candidacy despite the rules prohibiting him from doing so.

Kubis stressed the importance of the election.

“Holding elections in Libya, even in (a) a far from ideal situation, and with all the imperfections, challenges and risks, is far more desirable than no elections,” he said. declared to the Security Council in September. “It could only foster division, instability and conflict.”

The Libyan Election Commission said on Tuesday it would take about two weeks to finalize the list of eligible candidates after any legal challenge from the 98 who registered for the Dec. 24 vote.

Arguments over the rules, including who may present themselves, threaten to derail efforts to get a myriad of warring factions to accept the legitimacy of a newly unified political leadership.

Three of the most prominent candidates may be charged with disqualifying violations.

Seif al-Islam was convicted in absentia by a Libyan court in 2015 of war crimes for his role in combating the 2011 uprising that ended his father’s 42-year rule and is wanted by the International Criminal Court (CPI).

Haftar, head of the so-called Libyan National Army based in the east, is accused of war crimes and other abuses, including during his 14-month assault on Tripoli, which ended last year. Diplomats say he also holds U.S. citizenship despite banning binationals from running for president.

Dbeibah made a public vow not to participate in the elections when he was chosen in March to be the interim prime minister in order to prevent him from using state functions for electoral purposes.

He also did not resign from his post three months before the vote, as required by an electoral law issued by the speaker of parliament in September.

Seif al-Islam and Haftar both deny war crimes. Haftar denied having dual citizenship while Dbeibah said the people wanted him to run and the election law was flawed.

The electoral commission, a technical rather than a political body, said most questions about the eligibility of candidates should be resolved by Libyan courts.

To dismiss one of the main candidates, but not all of them, would likely spark an angry backlash among their supporters and attacks on the integrity of the election.

Other prominent candidates include former prime ministers, ministers and lawmakers from previous transitional governments and dissentient administrations established in the past 10 years of unrest.

There will be two rounds of voting if no one obtains at least 50% of the votes plus one in the first round.

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