The British ambassador was drawn into the political crisis in Libya after the election was canceled | Libya
The political crisis in Libya has taken on an increasingly international dimension after Britain was accused of defending corruption and meddling in internal processes by demanding that the interim government remain in power until postponed elections are rescheduled.
The country’s first presidential election, scheduled for December 24th, was postponed indefinitely at the last minute, largely because violent disagreements over who could run had not been resolved.
The UK’s Twitter account in Libya was released on the day the vote should have taken place a message said it continues to recognize the interim government of national unity “as the authority entrusted with running Libya in elections and does not advocate the establishment of parallel governments or institutions”.
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, the Libyan Parliament, accused British Ambassador Caroline Hurndall of breaking diplomatic norms and suffering unjustified interference. The committee said that only the House of Representatives – which has been accused of delaying or even disrupting elections – could decide on the role of the transitional government. Some tribes went further and demanded the eviction of Hurndall.
Fathi Bashagha, presidential candidate and former interior minister, said: “Corruption is leading Libya to bankruptcy. We want to ask the UK a question: why does the UK government apply the best anti-corruption standards in its country and want to protect corruption in Libya? Why is Britain defending the government and financial institutions in Libya? “
The vote should mark a fresh start for the oil-rich country, a year after a landmark ceasefire and more than a decade after its 2011 revolt that toppled and killed dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi. The Libyan parliament is due to meet on Monday to discuss a new timetable and to discuss the mandate of the current transitional government, which should end with the elections on Friday.
Various factions and international powers are fighting for their positions, fearing that the political vacuum will lead to a resumption of the fighting.
The Tripoli-based unity government is headed by Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, a tycoon who wants to run for president even though he promised not to do so when he took office. Analysts have suggested that his rivals may want to take advantage of the delay to push him out of the picture.
Two other would-be candidates are particularly controversial: Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a divisive symbol of the old regime wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes allegations, and warlord Khalifa Haftar, whose troops staged a 16-month siege in the east Tripoli before the armistice last year.
The dispute over the eligibility of candidates reflects a deeper East-West disagreement that has not been resolved. Haftar has been credited with assisting Egypt and the United Arab Emirates at various times and has been rejected by Turkey, which has supported militias from the west who are defending Tripoli with fighters and weapons.
It was not clear why Britain was being so heavily criticized, as a joint statement by Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the US also called for the current transitional government to remain in power until the elections are quickly reorganized.
In an obvious reference to Dbeibah, the statement said: “To avoid conflicts of interest and promote a level playing field, candidates who hold positions in public institutions should continue to vacate them until the election results are announced.”
The Western powers said they also support “the UN’s call to resolve disagreements on emerging political or military matters without the use of force. We are ready to hold those who threaten stability or undermine the political and electoral process in Libya to account. “
Najla El-Mangoush, foreign minister in the transitional government, appeared to be slowing the elections by saying that national unity was a requirement.
“At this crucial moment in Libyan history, we, Libyans and the international community, need to recognize that elections are a tool for achieving stability, not a goal,” she tweeted. “The elections should be based on the principle of reconciliation, a constitutional basis and the unification of institutions.”
Some observers have long doubted whether free elections are possible in a country where up to 20,000 foreign troops, including mercenaries, are at large.
Recalling protests against the postponement, Fadel Lamen, another presidential candidate, tweeted: “The demonstrations in Benghazi and Tripoli on Saturday are a real testimony to the will of the people and their insistence that their voices be heard and their votes counted. They voted with their feet to make sure that nobody in the country or willfully withheld from them. “