By Ardee Napolitano and Yonathan Van der Voort
PARIS (Reuters) – There are serious steps being taken in Libya towards compromise over an election planned for December as part of a peace process, the country’s Presidency Council head Mohamed al-Menfi told Reuters.
“We must be optimistic and think that the elections will be on time with the agreement of Libyans,” he said in an interview.
“Now there are serious steps to make a consensus to hold the election on time on Dec. 24,” he added, without giving any details.
Disputes over the schedule and rules for Libya’s election, including over who should be allowed to run, threaten to derail a U.N.-backed peace process that is seen as the best hope in years to end a decade of chaos.
Menfi was in Paris for Friday’s international conference on Libya at which world powers agreed to consider sanctions for anybody who disrupts the election, but made no move to bring its rival factions together to agree on rules for the vote.
The vote was called through a U.N.-backed roadmap that demanded simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 24. However, a law issued by parliament speaker Aguila Saleh pushed the parliamentary vote to a later date.
Heightening the stakes at play, some of the most prominent candidates are highly controversial figures such as Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, who announced his candidacy on Sunday. Gaddafi was sentenced to death by a Tripoli court in 2015 for war crimes and is wanted by the International Criminal Court.
Question marks also hang over other likely candidates, including eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, whom western factions accuse of war crimes, which he denies, and interim prime minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah who had vowed not to run.
“We are trying as much as possible to end this process in a democratic, transparent and acceptable way to all Libyans on Dec. 24, so that power is handed over to an elected authority,” Menfi said.
He said there should be no disputes over candidates who meet the requirements of electoral laws once they have been agreed.
“We are not worried about the participation of any Libyan if they meet the conditions of the electoral laws,” he said.
(Reporting by Ardee Napolitano and Yonathan Van der Voort; writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Hugh Lawson)