Libya to hold early polls

 18 Feb 2014 - 6:35


Libyans celebrate the third anniversary of the revolution against Muammar Gaddafi at Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli, yesterday.

TRIPOLI: Libya’s parliament will call elections “as early as possible”, its president said yesterday, in an apparent effort to assuage ordinary Libyans angry over political chaos in the country nearly three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
The parliament, the General National Congress (GNC), is deadlocked between Islamists and nationalists, compounding a sense of chaos as Libya’s fledgling army tries to assert itself against unruly ex-rebels, tribal groups and Islamist militants.
Many people in the Opec oil-producing nation blame mainly the GNC infighting for a lack of progress in the transition towards democracy since the ousting of Gaddafi in 2011.
“The GNC announces... that elections will be held as early as possible,” GNC President Nouri Abusahmain said in a televised speech marking the third anniversary of the start of the Nato-backed uprising against Gaddafi.
An election law will be approved by the end of March, he said, without providing a more precise timetable.
The parliament has reached consensus on holding early elections, yielding to popular pressure after it had extended its mandate that ended on February 7, deputies said.
“The political blocs are unanimous on the holding of early elections” for new transitional authorities, MP Abdullah Al Gmati said. He belongs to a 15-strong bloc of independent lawmakers in the General National Congress (GNC), Libya’s highest political authority. Discussions are still under way on institutions that might replace the GNC: a new congress, or a parliament and a president.
The second strongest bloc in the GNC, the Party of Justice and Construction (PJC) which is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, had on Thursday called for early elections.
The GNC’s 200 members were elected in July 2012 for a term of 18 months and tasked with leading the country’s transition after the 2011 uprising.
But earlier this month, it decided to extend its mandate until December despite opposition from Libyans critical of its inability to halt the country’s slide into chaos.
Thousands of Libyans took to the streets for the second consecutive week on Friday to protest against the decision.
The demonstration came ahead of yesterday’s third anniversary of the start of the February 17 Revolution, when angry residents of the eastern city of Benghazi took to the streets to protest against Gaddafi’s four-decade rule.
The GNC last week adopted a new roadmap that would see a general election held by the end of the year if a constitutional body due to be chosen on February 20 adopts a new charter within four months of its election.
The commission would decide on key issues in a new constitution, including the system of government, the status of minorities and the role of Islamic sharia law.
But if, within 60 days, it decides it cannot complete the job, it would call for immediate presidential and legislative polls for a fresh period of 18 months.
After first accepting this roadmap, the PJC has now called for going “straight to elections”.
Their rivals, the liberal Alliance of National Forces (NFA), opposed extending the GNC mandate from the outset.
MP Suad Soltan of the NFA said on Sunday her bloc has been demanding the assembly’s dissolution for months.