Libya opened registration for presidential and parliamentary candidates on Monday, as the country seeks to move on from a decade of war.
The North African country’s first direct presidential elections, with a first round on December 24, come after a year of relative peace following an October 2020 ceasefire between the eastern and western camps.
However, the UN-backed election process has been overshadowed by squabbles over the legal basis for the votes and the powers of whoever wins.
Candidates can submit applications to the High National Electoral Commission (HNEC) offices in Libya’s three major cities, west, east, and south, until November 22, the HNEC said on Sunday.
Parliamentary candidates have until December 7 to file their candidacy.
For months, speculation has swirled about possible presidential bids by eastern-based military chief Khalifa Haftar and Seif al-Islam, son of former dictator Moammar Gaddafi, whose fall in a NATO-backed revolt in 2011 precipitated the country’s descent into years of violence and political turmoil.
Former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha has confirmed his candidacy, and diplomats Aref al-Nayed and Ibrahim Dabbachi, as well as comedian Hatem al-Kour, are also expected to run.
The opening of candidacies “is the true start of the electoral process,” said Imad al-Sayeh, the head of the electoral commission, to reporters on Sunday.
Both presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for December 24, but parliament split the dates of the vote in early October by postponing legislative elections until January.
Foreign powers, on the other hand, have been pushing hard for both elections to be held on the same day, a date agreed to at UN-led talks last year.
Over 2.8 million of Libya’s seven million residents have registered to vote with the HNEC.
International powers have pushed for elections as a key component of a plan to end years of violence between a variety of Libyan and foreign armed groups, many of which are backed by foreign powers.
However, observers are concerned that the security situation will prevent a free and fair vote, and that a disputed outcome will spark a return to conflict.