Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the Libyan Presidential Council announced that Libya will hold presidential and parliamentary elections before the end of 2019.
Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the Libyan Presidential Council, announced that the country would hold parliamentary and presidential elections by the end of 2019. The announcement came after Sarraj held talks in Abu Dhabi with General Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army (LNA) where the two sides expressed agreement towards moving Libya away from the “transitional period” that has lasted since 2011.
The outcome of the talks, which were hosted by the United Nations’ Special Envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, raise hopes that the elections, which have been delayed repeatedly as a result of the on-going political and security deadlock in the country, can finally be held. However, the optimism here is tempered somewhat by the failure of the previous two summits between Libya’s rival Government of National Accord (GNA) and House of Representatives (HoR).
For instance, the summit in Palermo in November 2018 saw mutual commitment to peace and elections but no decisive statements but is viewed as having been unsuccessful. Before then, a summit in Paris saw agreement to hold elections but no set dates or deadlines towards it, effectively paving the way towards delays.
In contrast, in the Abu Dhabi summit, the two sides emphasized not only elections, but the need to merge the country’s divided institutions. Furthermore, the meeting was held in more cordial environment where Haftar – not the leader of the Tobruk-based HoR government but its most powerful and decisive supporter – met with GNA leader Sarraj in a relatively cordial environment.
However, it remains to be seen if the summit in Abu Dhabi will actually lead to elections or a general reconciliation between the two governments. A number of major challenges still remain. Chief among them is the matter of oil sales which has been a frequent source of contention between the HoR and the GNA. With the LNA making gains in southern Libya and controlling a number of major oil fields, the odds are decisively in Haftar’s favour.