Libya’s High State Council voted on Thursday for a constitutional amendment intended to provide a basis for elections but there appeared to be little progress on big disagreements standing in the way of a national vote.
Earlier this week, a special United Nations envoy for Libya moved to take charge of a stalled political process in order to enable elections that are seen as the path to resolving years of conflict.
Libya has been locked in a political stalemate since late 2021 when a scheduled election was cancelled because of disputes over the rules and the eastern-based parliament, the House of Representatives, withdrew support from the interim government.
Peacemaking efforts since then focused on getting the House of Representatives and the High State Council to agree on a constitutional basis for elections and on voting rules.
Thursday’s vote approved a constitutional amendment that was issued last month by the House of Representatives and was presented as step towards holding elections.
Foreign powers have long indicated that big political changes need the approval of both the House of Representatives and the High State Council under a 2015 agreement that was intended to establish a short transitional period that would ultimately resolve the conflict.
On Monday, UN envoy Abdoulaye Bathily cited that 2015 agreement to say he was setting up a steering committee of major Libyan figures to adopt a time-bound roadmap to elections.
In remarks that appeared aimed at both the House of Representatives, which was elected in 2014, and the High State Council, which emerged from a chamber elected in 2012, he said that “most institutions lost their legitimacy years ago”.
Speaking before it was approved, Bathily also described the amendment as “controversial within the Libyan political class and general citizenry”, noting it did not address contentious issues such as candidate eligibility or create a clear timeline for elections.
Many Libyans have grown sceptical that their political leaders are negotiating in good faith, saying their true goal is to delay any election that could cost them positions of power and privilege.
Tim Eaton of Chatham House think-tank in London said the amendment seemed aimed at making it harder to sideline the two chambers.
“There is a ‘breakthrough’ every time it looks like the House of Representatives and High State Council are going to lose control of the process,” he said.
The latest amendment appeared to create new labyrinthine processes that would only trigger subsequent processes later on, he added, calling it “process for process’s sake”.