Aref Nayed: Elections Will Be Held in December Despite Attempts to Postpone by Turkey – Al Marsad

Aref Ali Nayed, Chairman of the Ihya Libya Movement (Reviving Libya Movement) and Libyan Presidential candidate, said the the international community is unanimous on holding the elections on their scheduled date on 24 December 2021. He said that this international consensus has been firmly reaffirmed by the Berlin II Conference on Libya, noting that the election date is Libyan par excellence because it was agreed upon by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), both in Tunis and Geneva. He said it was a binding date for all, through the UN Roadmap and the commitments signed by the new interim Government of National Unity (GNU) and the new Presidential Council—both of which emanated from the LPDF meetings. Consequently, argued Nayed, it is not possible to extend the date of this entitlement or delay its implementation.

“Everyone said no to Turkey, and Turkey will not be able, no matter how powerful and capable its forces are, to stand against the international will, especially since the elections are backed by United Nations Security Council Resolutions (under Chapter VII) and supported by the outputs of the Berlin Conferences I and II. Turkey will not be able to break the international consensus.”— Dr Aref Ali Nayed

(LIBYA, 27 June 2021) – Dr Aref Ali Nayed said during an exclusive interview with Sky News Arabia, that all the requirements for holding the elections are very important, especially the exit of foreign forces and mercenaries from all Libyan lands. Nayed added that the requirements should not be used to obstruct the holding of the elections, in the sense of using them to delay the elections, or as an excuse to disrupt the elections.

Nayed said, “The obstructing parties put the exit of foreign forces and mercenaries as a requirement, but they themselves do not want to leave!”.  He continued, “The elections will be held even with the presence of some forces, or even if scheduled phases of their exit from the country are not completed. The elections will be held because there is a clear international will to hold them. We thank the United States of America for its firmness in this regard. The Republic of France and the Arab Republic of Egypt have played an active role in standing up to attempts by Turkey to stall in this regard”.

Aref Nayed believed that everything needed to hold the elections was in place, and the High National Elections Commission (HNEC) spoke of its complete readiness and intention to start registering voters in a few days, in addition to the Head of the House of Representatives (HoR)’s confirmation that the constitutional rule and the laws regulating the elections are ready and that there is no need for further procrastination.

All Libyan regions are under a controlled force, and the international community can compel Libyan stakeholders to defend and protect the elections and allow the elections to be monitored and conducted smoothly in the areas they control. “The security issue should not be used as an excuse for further procrastination,” said Nayed.

He added: “Turkey is a country that will not be able to stand alone, in isolation, in the face of international consensus. What happened in the corridors of the Berlin II Conference was a wonderful position and a complete alignment of the international community with the Libyan people; the United States, France, Egypt and all the countries of the world stood against Turkey, which tried to argue that the presence of its forces on Libyan soil was legitimate. In fact, the presence of these forces is based on invalid agreements that were never ratified by the Parliament in the country, and even the Libyan Parliament objected to them at the United Nations. Everyone said no to Turkey, and Turkey will not be able, no matter how powerful and capable its forces are, to stand against the international will, especially since the elections are backed by United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and supported by the outputs of the Berlin Conferences I and II.

Nayed ruled out the possibility that Turkey could break the international consensus, adding: “Yes, the mercenary force is dangerous, and there are even terrorists and thugs among them, but it is under the control of the Turkish forces, and the Turkish Defense Minister, who visited Mitiga as if he was in the old Tripolitania state—can get his soldiers out of the country. We believe that Turkey is able to remove these forces, and the world is able to force Turkey to remove its forces from Libya.”

Nayed stressed that the unification of civil, security and military institutions in the country will not be fully and sustainably achieved except through a Libyan President elected by the Libyan people who enjoys the legitimacy that the Libyan people will grant him or her through voting at the ballot box, and a new, young Parliament full of young men and women of Libyan expertise and experience. “The President and the elected Parliament will unite everything,” as he put it

Nayed said, “We extend our hands to all Libyans, except Libyans whose allegiance is to transnational extremist groups that do not believe in the nation-state in the first place. We extend our hands to every Libyan who believes in the nation-state and that it should have a prosperous future. We extend our hands to them and try to reconcile ourselves through comprehensive national reconciliation. No Libyan should be deprived of the right to nominate, nor the right to vote.”

He demanded that the Presidential Council assume its responsibilities and not allow powers to be taken from it because one of the requirements of national reconciliation and rapprochement between the parties in the country is for the Presidential Council to exercise its powers according to the Geneva documents, which is a very important matter.

Al-Marsad publishes, here, an exclusive English translation of the Arabic transcript of the full interview:

Sky News Arabia: The Berlin II Conference on Libya confirmed the same positions regarding the Libyan crisis, and there is international and regional support for the political process in Libya, but now there are many question marks about the date of 24 December, because the date of the elections must be preceded by a number of commitments, many of which have not been fulfilled. Is it still a sacred date?

Dr Aref Ali Nayed: Yes, there is a consensus to hold the elections on their due date on 24 December. This consensus has been firmly reaffirmed at the Berlin II Conference on Libya. The election date is Libyan par excellence, because it was agreed upon by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), both in Tunis and Geneva, and it has become a binding date for all through the UN Roadmap and the commitments signed by the new interim Government of National Unity (GNU) and the new Presidential Council, both emanated from the LPDF meetings. This date cannot be extended or procrastinated because the stipulated mandate of both the interim GNU and Presidential Council expires on this date.

You stated at the Libyan Forum of Political Movements and Parties that was recently held in Benghazi, that, “the legitimacy that the government of Abdul Hamid al-Dbaiba has is temporary. It is a specific legitimacy with a specific date, and he must be aware of this and respect all the pledges he signed in Geneva. He pledged to abide by the UN Roadmap. Any extension of tenure for this government beyond December 24 is illegitimate.” The problem is that time is flying and there is just five months left and many things have not been accomplished; the constitution draft, and the foreign fighters and mercenaries have not withdrawn, and also the issue of opening the coastal road, there are several question marks around it. These are issues that must be completed before the elections. How can elections be held without all these things?

With regard to the validity date of the mandate granted to the GNU, this is not only my words, but the Parliament’s as well when it voted to grant confidence to the cabinet of Abdul Hamid al-Dbaiba, it was conditional with this date. Likewise, the UN Security Council, when it issued its statement supporting the formation of the GNU and the Presidential Council, also set the date as a final date. The issue of the end of legitimacy of the Interim Government of National Unity (GNU) and the Presidential Council is clear with regard to domestic law through the House of Representatives and its granting of confidence to the GNU, and through international law as well.

All the requirements for holding the elections are very important, especially the exit of foreign forces and mercenaries from all Libyan lands. However, the requirements should not be used to obstruct the holding of the elections, in the sense of using them as pretexts to delay the elections as some participants unfortunately tried, but they were the only feeble voices that objected to the international consensus in Berlin. They should not try to procrastinate with this pretext of the exit requirement.

The obstructing parties put the exit of foreign forces and mercenaries as a requirement, but they themselves do not want to leave! The elections will be held even with the presence of some forces, or even if scheduled phases of their exit from the country are not completed. The elections will be held because there was a clear international will to hold them. We thank the United States of America for their firmness in this regard. The Republic of France and the Arab Republic of Egypt have played an active role in standing up to the attempts of the Turks to stall in this regard.

We believe that everything needed to hold the elections is available. The High National Elections Commission (HNEC) spoke of its complete readiness and intention to start registering voters in a few days, in addition to the Head of the House of Representatives’ confirmation that the constitutional rule and the laws regulating the elections are ready and that there is no need for procrastination.

From an organizational point of view, the HNEC may be ready, but there are many other field matters that have not yet been completed; the most important of which is the security issue. What are the scenarios that you can infer in the event that elections are not held on 24 December? You said, “any extension of tenure for this government beyond 24 December is illegitimate. The Libyan people will take the actions they deem appropriate, convene and establish a new constituent body; or take to the streets in a massive protest; this is left to the Libyan people. But we believe, as national movements and political currents, that no procrastination will be accepted after this date.” But there are many in Libya and abroad who strongly believe that this date will not be honored because the period is too short. So what do you think will happen if the elections are not held?

First, the question of what we will do if they try to procrastinate with regard to the upcoming election date, I think that it is necessary to return to the Libyan legitimacy, which is the legitimacy of the Libyan people. If the Libyan people are not given their inherent right and opportunity to vote through the ballot boxes, they have no other options but to go out to the street and call for the establishment of a new constituent body that will come up with something new. But we hope that all of this will not happen because the elections will take place on time and the Berlin II Conference on Libya reaffirmed this entitlement date.

Moreover, strong regional and international will is present. The African Union’s firm support is also present. There are precedents in which the African Union supported elections in African countries before and committed everyone to their results. The recent Security Council resolutions are binding under Chapter VII. Holding the elections on time is also imposable by the United Nations. The required national legislation and laws are already there too. We, in the political movements and parties that convened on the 19 and 20 of this month, included in our communiqué that we issued and submitted to the Head of the House of Representatives that both Resolution No. (5) of 2014 and the Seventh Amendment to the Constitutional Declaration, included in the decisions of the February Commission, constitute a sufficient constitutional rule for holding the elections. We believe that all the conditions are in place.

As for the security file, the situation now in 2021 is not worse than 2014. All Libyan regions are under a controlled force, and the world can compel each of us to defend and protect the elections and allow the elections to be monitored and conducted smoothly in the areas it controls. The security issue should not be used as an excuse for more procrastination. The Libyan people have been waiting for ten years to elect their President to renew legitimacy. They have been deprived of this inherent right and opportunity when the elections were postponed in 2017 and 2018. I believe that the Libyan people will not accept another postponement in December 2021. Therefore, I advise all parties to work together to prepare for the elections. I am very happy to see that there is great political momentum and that parties and blocs are forming and independents are starting to prepare for the elections. All this momentum is very important and we all have to prepare ourselves and go to the voter register and register to vote.

You see that neither the constitution is an issue that might impede the elections, nor the security situation, nor is the exit of militias and foreign forces necessary before the elections are held. Do you think that the situation in Libya is ideal to hold elections and nothing is missing for them to be held in a fair and impartial manner?

This is a replica of the anti-elections flimsy arguments used by the Muslim Brotherhood. Most of the Libyan people know that the draft constitution is not subject to a referendum in the first place, and the original Libyan components, the Amazigh, Tebu, Tuareg, in addition to the entire Cyrenaica region objected to the draft constitution because it contains provisions in it that effectively mean that the ruling class today will continue to rule even when the referendum is passed, for more than a year and a half or two years. So the subject of the referendum on the constitution is out of the equation now and the international community agrees with this view, as well as most Libyans agree through opinion polls conducted by several countries and the United Nations as well. This is with regard to the issue of the constitution.

Regarding security pretexts, all parties control the areas they rule. The Libyan National Army (LNA) controls more than 80% of the country. The LNA announced two days ago that it fully supports the direct Presidential and Parliamentary elections on 24 December, and the remaining 20% ​​can be obligated to the elections because they all control the areas in their jurisdiction. Everyone is obligated to protect the elections in his area and it is possible to instate international observers. The African Union can also set up groups to monitor the conduct of the elections. It is easy, and all these procrastination and pretexts will not work. We say that any procrastination in this regard or any other attempt to prolong the waiting of the Libyan people to cast their votes through the ballot box will have very serious repercussions and will lead to instability and many other complications.

The issue of the exit of mercenaries and foreign forces, you say that elections can be held even while they are on their way to a complete exit, and it is very important not to stipulate exit for the elections to be held. You say, what will these foreign forces and mercenaries do in the event that elections take place? Even the Berlin II Conference declaration indicated the necessity of implementing this issue, but you do not see it as an obstacle in the way of the elections.

I do not see it as an obstacle because, in the end, Turkey is a member of NATO and an ally of America in one way or another, and a country that will not be able to stand alone in the face of international consensus. What happened during the Berlin II Conference was a wonderful position and a complete alignment from all the world with the Libyan people. The United States, France and Egypt and all the countries of the world stood in the face of Turkey, which tried to make the argument that the presence of its forces in Libya is legitimate and based on agreements. In fact, the aforementioned agreements were never approved or ratified by the Libyan Parliament, which classified them as non-existing and invalid, and registered Libyan Parliament’s rejection and its objection to them at the United Nations.

Everyone said no to Turkey, and Turkey will not be able, no matter how powerful and capable its forces are, to stand against the international will, especially since the elections are backed by United Nations Security Council Resolutions (under Chapter VII) and supported by the outputs of the Berlin Conferences I and II. Turkey will not be able to break the international consensus. Yes, the mercenary force is dangerous, and there are even terrorists and thugs in it, but it is under the control of the Turkish forces, and the Turkish Defense Minister who visited Mitiga as if he was part of the old [Ottoman] Tripolitania state, can get his soldiers out of the country. We believe that Turkey is able to remove these forces, and the world is able to force Turkey to evacuate its forces.

There is another issue that was considered among the entitlements of the transitional phase and the Roadmap, which is the unification of the military institution. The statement of the Berlin II Conference clearly indicated this point when it mentioned that the conference calls for the restoration of the monopoly of the State on the legitimate use of force, and supports efforts to unify the Libyan national security, police and military institutions under the authority and oversight of the interim Presidential Council and the interim Government of National Unity (GNU). What does this mean for the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar? It is clear from the statement of the Berlin II Conference on Libya the reference to the necessity of reforming the security and military sector and placing it under the authority and supervision of the Interim GNU and the Interim Presidential Council. How do you view the position of the LNA in light of this issue?

Attempts and efforts to unify the Libyan army and restructure the Libyan army began in Egypt, which contributed to organizing and holding successive meetings over a long period spanning years, during which more than six sessions were held in Egypt. All these efforts, as well as the Geneva meetings, resulted in the emergence of the Libyan 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC). The LNA participated in the work of the JMC with full cooperation and was able to reach, through it, important understandings, including the ceasefire and the security arrangements that ensued, and are taking place now.

The issue of restructuring the Libyan army is a military affair, but I believe that every unification initiative in Libya, whether for the army or state institutions in general, whether civil, military and police, will not be achieved effectively, and on the ground and completely, except through a Libyan President elected by the Libyan people who enjoys the legitimacy of the Libyan people and a new, young Parliament full of young men and women of Libyan competencies. The President and the elected Parliament will unite everything. The condition of unification before the elections is invalid. We all seek to unify all institutions, but at the same time these conditions must be things we seek, but we do not require their completion as a prerequisite for holding the upcoming the elections. On the contrary, the elections are what will lead to such unification in all the military, security, police, civil and banking institutions; along with other institutions.

The Berlin Conference II statement speaks somewhat differently, and talks about the necessity of placing all security institutions under civilian authority and under the supervision of the Presidential Council and the Interim GNU, and it talks about the current stage and does not talk about the stage that will follow the elections?

The 5+5 Joint Military Committee (JMC) is doing this and they are moving towards that with steady and confident steps, and I think they have achieved a lot. There is a paragraph in the statement that commended the efforts of the JMC. We thank and appreciate the efforts of the Libyan officers in this important Committee.

You have some reservations about the performance of Dbaiba’s government. You mentioned that it is not within the power of the Prime Minister to sign new agreements with any country. He, also, does not have the authority to renew or sign agreements signed by Fayez Al-Sarraj; he does not have the authority to appoint Ambassadors. There are many things that are not within his powers at this stage.

The powers of the Prime Minister and the Head of the Presidential Council are clearly delineated in the LPDF Geneva documents. All the powers I mentioned and which you quoted from my speech at the Libyan Forum of Political Movements and Parties are within the jurisdiction of the Presidential Council as a whole, and this is clearly evident in all these documents. It was not within the powers of the Prime Minister to sign the agreements that he signed with the Turks, the Italians or others. This originally falls within the jurisdiction of the Presidential Council. On this occasion, we call on the Presidential Council to assume its responsibilities and not allow the powers to be taken away from it because this is a very important matter and a prerequisite for embarking on national reconciliation and rapprochement between the stakeholders. All we ask from the Presidential Council is to exercise its assigned powers according to the Geneva documents.

You had some positions regarding Dbaiba’s performance in general. Do you think he is biased towards one or certain parties to the Libyan crisis today?

We thank the Prime Minister for the position he announced at the Berlin II Conference. As I understand it, he held bilateral meetings with representatives of some of the participating countries, in particular, the member states of the Security Council. It seems that he understood that the issue of prolonging the government’s term and extending the specified tenure, on the pattern of Al-Sarraj, who self-extended for five consecutive years even though his mandate was for one year, is impossible. We commend the points that the Prime Minister has read out at the Berlin II Conference. We thank him for his commitment to the participants, the people, and to the public, to hold the elections on 24 December, and he also announced his commitment to preparing for these elections.

We hope that there will be no pretexts on the subject for causing any procrastination. The budget has been approved by Parliament. Many people believe that the Parliament has not endorsed the budget. The Parliament approved the budget in the salary item, which is the most important item. The Parliament must approve other necessary allocations for the health sector, necessary medicines, combating the pandemic, arrangements for the Ministry of Interior to secure the elections, and it is important to provide prompt funding to the HNEC. Such necessary allocations need to be expediently approved.

The GNU has been referred to as an Interim Government in more than 5 contexts in the Berlin Conference II document. The first task of this government is also determined, which is to prepare for the elections. That’s all we ask of the Prime Minister. We pray to God Almighty to support him in this regard. His first and only duty is to bring the country to elections and to provide the Libyan people with the basic services they need until then.

You were one of the leaders of the February 2011 uprising against the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Today, you have a point of view regarding this issue. You call for national reconciliation with all the symbols of the previous regime, including Saif al-Islam. Do you not see this position as contradictory to be one of the leaders of the February uprising that erupted against the practices of the era of Colonel Gaddafi. Now you are calling for reconciliation with the symbols of the previous regime, headed by Saif al-Islam. What do you think of that?

Things did not end well, the past ten years have been filled with wars, displacement, torment, poverty, hardships, and deterioration of public services on all levels, causing the indescribable suffering that the Libyan people have been going through. All this leads any person to extend his hand to every true Libyan who loves Libya and wants its people to live a prosperous life worthy of a people with oil wealth and other resources. We extend our hands to all Libyans, except to Libyans whose allegiance is to transnational extremist groups that do not believe in the nation-state in the first place. We extend our hands to every Libyan who believes in the nation-state and that it should have a prosperous future. We extend our hands to all and take the initiative for a comprehensive national reconciliation. No Libyan should be deprived of the right to run for office or the right to vote. Let the Libyan people choose their own representatives through direct Presidential and Parliamentary elections. We reject those attempts in the past few days to confiscate the choice and will of the Libyan people and consecrate the exclusion of others.

It is inappropriate for you to say that I will not accept the person that the people will elect. Any candidate elected by the Libyan people through the ballot boxes should be welcomed by all because the next elected President is the President of all Libyans and he must take into account the public interest and welfare of all Libyans.

Including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi?

I do not exclude any Libyan at all.

Do you oppose the extradition of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court?

I have publicly opposed this twice before, during court sessions and when the Sarraj’s Government of National Accord requested that he be tried abroad. I agree that a Libyan should be tried in Libya regardless of who he is because the Libyan judiciary has the inherent right to try any Libyan. Therefore, I believe that any Libyan has the right to be tried in Libya in a fair and impartial manner, as per a fully integrated trial with the legal procedures provided in the Libyan Law.

On the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood, you have made statements about them. You do not see that the Brotherhood has control over the Western Region, you say in one of your statements that the Muslim Brotherhood’s control of the Western Region is just a narrative that the Muslim Brotherhood pretentiously repeats. The Muslim Brotherhood is not in control of the Western Region and is not in control of Tripoli and Misrata and “we should not accept this narrative.” You also said that the Muslim Brotherhood controls the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) and a number of media outlets. You mentioned that what happened in Libya is a “tyranny of a minority that has no real electoral weight, but they exerted control over the nexuses of the State,” as you put it.

The Libyan people are homogeneous and united in their vision, hopes and aspirations, and the Libyan people are not ideologues, and this is true of all those in Tripoli, Misrata, Zawiya, Zuwara and in all the Libyan soil. Those who created division and fragmentation among the Libyan people are a small minority of ideologues. Because they are a very small minority, you find them desperate to obstruct or disrupt the direct Presidential elections in Libya because any candidate who wins the elections will win the majority of the votes. From this point of view, this minority makes excuses for holding a referendum on a disputed draft constitution, or holding Presidential elections through Parliament, and sometimes they say let there be Parliamentary and Presidential elections through Parliament, and again they back down and call for Parliamentary elections with a Presidential one but restricting the powers of the Head of State. In conclusion, they do not want a President elected by the masses of the Libyan people.

They are very confident that they will lose any elections through direct voting because their electoral base is insignificant. Yes, they are influential and skilled in the methods of seizing funds through controlling the CBL, and the administrations of institutions. However, we should never give them more than their size. We must trust ourselves as Libyans, and I believe that the Libyan people in Tripoli, Misrata, Zawiya, Sabratha and Zuwara will be one voice with the Libyan people in Benghazi, Tobruk, Al-Marj, Sebha and Murzuq, and will cast their national votes, and bring a national President and a national Parliament who can restore Libya’s legitimacy and sovereignty and rise up the country and make it a stable and prosperous state.

Will you run in the upcoming elections for the position of President of the State?

Yes. I had previously been nominated for the Presidency since 2017, and the elections were stalled, and after the Paris Conference, I announced my candidacy again and they stalled in the elections. This time, there will be no procrastination, God willing. Yes, I am a candidate for the Presidency of the Libyan State, and I support any other qualified candidate from the Libyan youth who share the same vision of reviving Libya. The Ihya Libya Movement’s vision is accessible in the public domain (https://ihyalibya.com/en/). It is a vision for a transformational change to revive the country, developed by a group of young experts and technocrats at the Libya Institute for Advanced Studies (LIAS)

© ALMARSAD ENGLISH (2021)

FURTHER LINKS

Final Communiqué of Berlin II: Foreign Forces and Mercenaries Must Leave Libya Without Delay

Dbaiba to Berlin II: Four Factors for the “Libya Stability Initiative” to Help Reach December Elections

LNA Confirms Full Support for December Elections and Departure of All Foreign Forces and Mercenaries

15 Libyan Political Movements and Parties Address their Demands to Head of Libyan Parliament

Benghazi | 15 Political Movements Demand December Direct Presidential and Parliamentarian Elections