Libya opens registration for presidential, legislative polls

Hauwa Mustapha

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Candidates for Libya’s presidential and legislative elections slated for 24th December can start registering from Monday, the electoral commission said.

“This is the real start of the electoral process,” aimed at turning the page on a decade of violence in the North African country, the head of the commission Imad al-Sayeh told reporters.

“Candidate registration for the presidential election will be open from 8th to 22nd November, and from 8th November to 7th December for the legislative polls,” he added.

Oil-rich Libya has been ripped apart by violence since the 2011 overthrow and killing of veteran leader Moamer Kadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising.

The polls are part of UN-backed peace efforts that have helped create a year of relative calm in war-wracked Libya following a ceasefire.

Last October’s ceasefire between rival eastern and western governments, after UN-hosted talks, led to a transitional government taking office in March to steer the country to elections.

Foreign powers have been pushing hard for elections to be both held as scheduled on the same day, 24th December, a date agreed at UN-led talks last year.

The embattled country has also struggled with infighting over a timetable for the elections and the legality of the polls.

World powers, including France and the United States, are due to hold a 12th November conference in Paris to make a new push to restore stability in Libya.

The High National Elections Commission (HNEC) said Sunday that 2.83 million Libyans out of a population of seven million have already registered to vote.

Eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar is widely expected to stand as a presidential candidate.

Kadhafi’s erstwhile heir apparent Seif al-Islam Kadhafi, who is wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, has also indicated he may run for the presidency.

Asked if Haftar’s and Kadhafi’s profiles comply with requirements to register as candidates, Sayeh said that “all those who fulfil the conditions required by the law can” register.

Five candidates have so far publicly announced a run for president, including former interior minister Fathi Bashagha.

Sayeh said he expected some “limited violations” at the polls and vowed that the commission will ensure they are “free and honest”.