SRSG Bathily's remarks to the press on the High-Level Panel for Elections
Brothers and sisters, women, men, boys and girls of this diverse and beautiful country, Libya,
Members of the national and international press present here and online,
Thank you for joining me today.
As Head of UNSMIL, the Security Council has given me the mandate to carry out the good offices of the Secretary-General.
This means taking all initiatives aimed at bringing together the Libyan stakeholders to enable them to overcome the current stalemate and lead the country to elections that will give legitimacy to its institutions.
Giving the Libyan people the opportunity to choose their leaders through the ballot box is, without doubt, the way towards peace, stability, and prosperity in the country. Elections are needed to restore and rebuild legitimate public institutions that represent and serve the people of Libya.
Successive interim arrangements, endless transition governments, legislative bodies whose terms of office have expired are a source of instability which puts the future of this country at risk.
The prolongation of this situation will only result in continued economic collapse, political and social turmoil, and increased insecurity, all of which will ultimately undermine the territorial integrity of Libya and the unity of its people.
Since my arrival in Libya in October last year, from my residence in Tripoli, I have engaged in extensive consultations with a wide range of Libyans, including heads of all relevant institutions, political leaders, security actors, women, youth, notables, and parliamentary and presidential candidates. I, with members of my team, have travelled to several cities and towns in the east, south, west and centre of Libya to see the situation firsthand and to listen to the views of Libyans of different political and social stripes on the challenges facing the country and the ordinary people, and how to resolve the current political impasse.
I also visited regional capitals where I had very useful consultations with state officials in Cairo, Tunis, Algiers, Rabat, Doha, Abu Dhabi, and in Brazzaville where I met the President of the AU High Level Panel for Libya. In the coming weeks, I shall go to Sudan, Chad and Niger, the southern neighbours of Libya.
I also engaged Libya’s key international partners both in Tripoli and in their capitals, including in Ankara, Rome, Paris, London, Berlin, Moscow, and Washington.
The regional and international dimensions of the Libyan crisis are obvious for whoever considers them. For the last decade, Libya has remained a regional and international playground.
To all external players I conveyed one consistent message: speak with one voice and act accordingly in helping the United Nations to support the intra-Libyan dialogue to break the current deadlock and answer the call of Libyan people who throughout the country, expressed widely their aspirations for elections.
In 2021 the Libyan people registered in large numbers: 2.8 million citizens put their names on the list of the HNEC.
This was a clear message which should have been heard by the current leaders of the country at all levels. The postponement of elections a year ago disappointed the Libyan citizens.
During five months of intensive consultations with those Leaders, I stressed the urgency of finalizing the constitutional basis and other legal requirements for the elections.
Three times: in October 2022 from Rabat, in December from Cairo, and in January 2023 again from Cairo, HoR Speaker Agila Saleh and HCS President Khaled Mishri, announced that they have signed an agreement which they declared completed their discussions on the constitutional issue.
However, disagreement persists on major points, such as the eligibility criteria for presidential candidates.
Throughout February, I continued to engage with them to urge them finalize their negotiations to meet the expectations of the people of Libya.
Further, I addressed a request to all other stakeholders, including Field Marshall Haftar, members of 5+5 Joint Military Committee, political party leaders, presidential candidates, civil and social leaders, and independent personalities, to share proposals to solve the crisis.
I am grateful to the large number of Libyans who conveyed to me their proposals motivated by their good will and a high sense of patriotic commitment.
A careful study of those contributions has inspired me in my initiative to revive and broaden the dialogue among Libyan stakeholders.
The Presidential Council also took the initiative to gather Libyan leaders in an effort to resolve the outstanding issues and finalize what was needed to put the electoral process back on track. I commend the Presidential Council for its efforts and I will continue to work with them as a key partner as I take my initiative forward.
On the eve of my 27 February briefing to the Security Council, the House of Representatives adopted a legislative document called “the 13th Amendment,” which, according to the High Council of State President, was also endorsed by the High Council of State a few days later. The two chambers decided also to task a joint 6+6 committee to deliberate on electoral laws.
I have noted the accelerated pace with which the House of Representatives and High Council of State adopted the 13th amendment and I commend them for taking this step in the right direction. Better late than never!
If the 6+6 work with the same speed and address all the gaps and shortcomings of the 13th Amendment within a reasonable timeframe, thus producing a credible and implementable constitutional and legal basis for the elections, this would represent real progress, restore confidence in the House of Representatives and High Council of State, enable the High National Elections Commission to proceed with essential technical preparations, and meet the deadline to hold the elections in 2023.
The UNSMIL team and I stand ready to support the 6+6 in any way (technical, human resources, logistics) to accomplish their tasks.
We are already supporting the High National Elections Commission and will increase our cooperation with them to expedite the implementation of their plan. I met already Mr. Mishri to discuss this. I look forward to meeting with Speaker Agila Saleh in the coming days.
There is no reason for any more delays. Taking into account the Holy month of Ramadan, which starts in less than two weeks, with good will and determination, a clear roadmap for the elections can be established by mid-June. Time will put to test this new public commitment from the House of Representatives and High Council of State and their leaders. They will be accountable for their words in front of Libya and the international community.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We all know that elections are not just about the constitutional and legal documents that the House of Representatives and High Council of State have been trying to agree on for more than a year. There are other critical issues that need to be addressed for the elections to take place and be successful.
Among these key issues, I can list the following:
- First: The improvement of security environment.
Given the fragmented nature of security institutions throughout the country, there is an imperative for a high-level dialogue among security actors to enable peaceful conditions for the candidates and the electorate during elections.
In response to the 5+5 Joint Military Commission’s call, UNSMIL has committed to host the conversation with security leaders from all regions to facilitate an agreement on measures to ensure security for elections.
- Second: The candidates and their freedom of movement during the electoral campaign
It is imperative to help candidates for presidential and legislative elections move freely across Libya. They also must adhere to principles that will enable free and fair competition and a level playing field, including by agreeing to accept the electoral process and its results.
The mechanism of the High Level Panel for Elections, which I have announced, will be used to elaborate on and get stakeholders to sign a code of good conduct.
A mutually respectful competition between candidates based on their respective platforms and visions for the country will not only ensure the legitimacy of the institutions but will also mark a milestone for national reconciliation and unity. Foundation stones are already being laid by the joint African Union and Presidential Council initiative on national reconciliation, which UNSMIL supports.
I intend to engage the electoral candidates in this endeavor. I expect them to demonstrate a sense of leadership and responsibility in this regard.
- Third: All other political and practical issues which may arise during those consultations from the different segments of society (women, youth, notables) will be tackled by the modalities of the high level dialogue through urging political parties to include them. These issues may include concerns about the unity and neutrality of the administration and a sound equitable and transparent state expenditure mechanism, etc.
- Fourth: The High-Level Panel is a new modality to ensure broader national ownership of the electoral process by Libyans from different walks of life beyond a small group of legislative players (i.e. the House of Representatives and the High Council of State).
The mechanism of the panel is not cast in stone.
It will operate in a flexible and dynamic manner. It is designed to engage the major stakeholders constructively around the main issues to enable inclusive, secure, peaceful, and fair elections this year, to meet the expectations of the people of Libya.
The actors of the High-Level Panel will not be designated or selected by UNSMIL! The stakeholders and constituencies concerned with the different subject matters will designate who will speak on their behalf in the course of my shuttle diplomacy between the Libyan actors.
This is to say the players on the ground who are concerned with different issues will be requested to negotiate directly or through their representatives. UNSMIL will facilitate the negotiations to secure compromises.
The High Level Panel does not aim to provide official positions in the State institutions at any level. Its only aim is to facilitate finding compromises on contentious issues to enable elections.
As you can see the High Level Panel, as I have presented it to you, has nothing to do with a ‘foreign imposed’ solution. It does not bypass Libyan stakeholders or institutions. It actually includes them. It puts the key actors and relevant institutions at the centre of the efforts to resolve the current political stalemate and to overcome the wider crisis by finding a Libyan-Libyan pathway to elections.
It is aimed at widening the negotiation process with key players to enable an electoral roadmap with specific timelines to guarantee the holding of inclusive, free and fair elections. The High Level Panel will bring on board more stakeholders to buy into the process for a broader national consensus. This will result in a successful electoral process that truly meets the aspirations of the Libyan people.
My initiative is in line with the vision of a new Libya, independent, peaceful, prosperous, a land of fraternity; Libya as a nascent actor in the regional and international scene.
I urge all Libyans Leaders to seize this opportunity to commit themselves to this vision and meet the aspirations of their great people.
I also call upon all regional and international players to take advantage of this momentum to reinforce their unified support to Libyan leaders for stronger commitment to deliver on the issues at the heart of the future of their country.
By speaking with one voice and helping to preserve Libya’s national unity and territorial integrity they will contribute to building a sincere partnership for mutual prosperity.