France and Italy agree on Libya: No to postpone the elections
Libya–Libya continues to be one of the main priorities of the European political agenda. On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the Libyan dossier with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in the bilateral session at the European summit in Slovenia. The discussions focused on the increasingly concrete threat that those who work to postpone the elections in Libya scheduled for December 24 will eventually succeed.
The two leaders fear that a shift could open a new phase of violence and conflict. Faced with the newfound uncertainty in the stabilization path, Macron decided to organize a recent summit on Libya scheduled in Paris on November 12. Still, it did not repeat the past mistakes when he summoned the protagonists of the Libyan crisis without consulting Rome. “There is close coordination between Italy, France, and Germany to implement the commitments made in Berlin and which must materialize in Paris,” commented Rome on the Draghi-Macron bilateral sidelines.
The French leader wants to insist on keeping the vote at all costs, even if behind the scenes, he is not ruling out changing the date of December 24. “We believe that it is in everyone’s interest that Libyans respect their commitment to hold elections by the end of the year,” explains a source to the Elysée, adding: “If not by the end of the year, at least on a date foreseeable and agreed. “ In Macron’s entourage, there is the suspicion that Ankara is trying to sabotage the electoral appointment on which, among other things, Marshal Haftar, in the past protected and aided by France, has positioned himself.
“We demand that Turkey exert all its influence to achieve the objective of the vote,” they told the Elysée. Even on the withdrawal of foreign mercenaries in Libya, which should occur before the vote, the tug-of-war is open. “The Russians told us they were ready to withdraw Wagner’s militiamen,” confides a Macron adviser. “We hope that the Turks will be able to make the same commitment, but there is still a lot of work to do,” adds the same source, recalling that already in Berlin, the Turks had put a caveat on the part of the agreement that concerned the withdrawal of the militias.
On the Italian side, however, some observe that one of the reasons that could lead to the vote’s postponement is the interest of the interim prime minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah to remain in his post. Therefore, he might postpone as far as possible the day of an electoral test that would lead to choosing his successor. In his international meetings, even with envoys from multilateral organizations, Dbeibah has been asking insistently for days, “but what happens if we don’t manage to vote? What is Plan B?”.
Dbeibah’s political opponents, who want to vote to return to the political game forcefully, are starting to denounce his game. Firstly, they blocked the launch of a budget for the government, funds that Dbeibah would use for his “election campaign.” General Khalifa Haftar and the president of Parliament Agila Salah in the East, the former vice president Ahmed Maetig and the former interior minister Fathi Bashaga in Tripoli will all be candidates: they push for the vote.
An essential element, which could be decisive in favor of the vote, is the position of the American government: yesterday in Paris, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The Americans want to move towards the political normalization of the country. In addition, they want the Russian and Turkish (Syrian) mercenaries who supported the two opposing camps to leave Libya.
The Parliament has definitively approved the electoral law of Tobruk. It foresees that on December 24, there will be a vote for the president and 30 days later for the new Parliament. Many groups oppose the law. For example, in Tripoli, the High Council of State rowed against this type of formula from the very beginning. Many believe that this is the time to push hard and oppose those who want to sabotage the vote: the elections will not be the solution to Libya’s problems, but perhaps they will avoid new military clashes, which are always possible in Libya.