By Sami Zaptia.
London, 9 January 2018:
Khalifa Hafter, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), the Libyan army recognized by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), has said that Libya is not ready yet for democracy.
Speaking to the French-language Jeune Afrique, Hafter warned that the upcoming 2018 Libyan elections must bring a solution to the country’s current blood shedding, and that if the ongoing chaos in Libya continued after the planned elections, he would say enough is enough and take action.
Hafter also criticized both Faiez Serraj and Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi in the interview. He accused Serraj of being weak and not strict enough and of being unable to control the militias in Tripoli.
On the other hand, he accused Saif of being naïve in expecting to win the next elections, adding that he did not have enough popularity.
It will be recalled that Hafter has recently, on several occasions and through various media outlets, confirmed his support for Libya’s forthcoming elections. However, critics have accused him of being ambivalent towards elections and for not believing in democracy in principle but of seeing them as a means to an end: a means to gain power.
In short, Hafter critics accuse him of having Qaddafi-like dictatorial ambitions. His threat to take actions if the 2018 elections are not successful only add to that suspicion.
On the other hand, supporters of Hafter told this publication that all Hafter was doing was warning those who had destroyed Libyan democracy in 2014 not to think of repeating their actions. He is sending a message that the election results must be respected and that Tripoli-based militias must submit to any democratically elected parliament and its government in 2018
Hafter’s public criticism of Saif Qaddafi would also come as a surprise to those who assumed they were both in the same political camp. It is not clear if Hafter was being genuine about Saif’s lack of popularity and election prospects, or whether Hafter saw Saif as a threat to his own election ambitions.
It must also be stressed that no official election date has been announced yet. However, the head of the High National Election Council (HNEC) Faraj Al-Sayah was quoted by Chinese media as saying that elections should take place by September 2018. He also said that all Libyan citizens would be free to stand for elections, thereby not precluding Saif Qaddafi.
In reality, the rules of the 2018 elections, as UNSMIL head Ghassan Salame has mentioned, would need to be set and passed by the HoR, prior to any Libyan election being able to take part.