Libya parliament speaker issues election law -spokesperson

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya’s parliament speaker Aguila Saleh has issued laws for national presidential and parliamentary elections, the chamber’s spokesperson said on Wednesday, but continued disputes over the process may make a vote difficult to achieve.

A majority in the parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR), voted to approve the laws on Monday according to the spokesperson, Abdullah Belaihaq, but he did not release the voting tally or number of members present.

Another internationally recognised legislative body, the High State Council (HSC), has not issued a clear statement on whether it has also approved the laws and there are disputes in Libya’s political system over whether it would need to do so.

Libya has had little peace or stability since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, and split in 2014 between eastern and western factions, with rival administrations governing in each area.

The HoR is based in the east and the HSC is in Tripoli, in the west, where the internationally recognised Government of National Unity (GNU) is also based.

Libya’s political divisions played into the recent disaster in Derna when dams broke under heavy rain, washing away much of the town in a flash flood that killed thousands of people.

International diplomacy to resolve Libya’s conflict has focused on pushing for parliamentary and presidential elections to replace the interim political institutions, including the HoR, HSC and GNU.

An attempt to hold an election in 2021 collapsed because of disputes over the rules after the HSC and other parts of Libya’s political system rejected electoral laws issued by the HoR.

The laws issued by Saleh on Wednesday were written by a joint committee of HoR and HSC members who met in Morocco earlier this year, but the U.N. envoy said in July that the laws “in their current state would not enable successful elections”.

The HoR has said it wants to replace the GNU with a new interim government before any election, something that could prompt a new bout of violence.

Saleh has previously issued laws whose validity some HoR members later disputed, accusing him of abusing parliamentary processes. He has denied that.

Two HSC members on Wednesday provided Reuters with contradictory accounts of whether the council had approved the laws or not.

Meanwhile, most of Libya is controlled on the ground by armed factions that may back or oppose particular political candidates, and diplomats have warned that it may be difficult to hold fair elections even if laws are widely agreed.

(Reporting by Reuters Libya newsroom; writing by Angus McDowall; editing by Alison Williams and Mark Heinrich)