Former Libyan minister Bashagha warns against delaying election

Fathi Bashagha, Interior Minister of Libya's UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), speaks during a press conference at the Tajura Training Institute, southeast of the GNA-held capital Tripoli on July 28, 2020. (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP) (Photo by MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP via Getty Images)

Libya’s former interior minister — a probable presidential candidate — has warned Tripoli’s transitional government not to delay elections as the strife-torn country seeks a return to peace and security.

In an interview with AFP, Fathi Bashagha — who left the government in March but is still an influential figure — said only that he was “still thinking” about a possible presidential run.

But he added that, 10 years after the overthrow of dictator Moamer Kadhafi and with UN-sponsored peace talks underway, Libyans are “optimistic about the future” and ready to build “a strong state”.

And he stressed that, as a former interior minister, he has “statecraft-related experience, first and foremost in the field of security”.

“We have to attach great importance to the stabilisation of the country and to our security,” he told AFP, criticising Libya’s current transitional government for failing to exert control over armed factions.

Libya’s transitional government under Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and a presidential council headed by Mohammad Younes Menfi is engaged in a UN-sponsored peace process and has promised to hold polls.

Germany will host a new set of talks in Berlin in three weeks’ time, focused on preparations for a national vote on December 24 and the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country after a decade of violence.

There has been a formal truce in the country since October, but the UN envoy for Libya, Jan Kubis, has warned that progress on pulling out foreign forces and uniting divided institutions has stalled.

Bashagha, a 58-year-old former air force officer who joined the revolt against Kadhafi’s regime as a member of the Islamist-led Misrata military council, placed the blame for the delay on the government.

“Now, it is clear that the present government would prefer not to have elections. But this is a commitment which has to be brought to completion,” he told AFP.

“So as far as the elections are concerned, the parliamentary and the presidential elections will take place simultaneously and, for the first time, the president will be elected by direct vote.”