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Making Libya's Next Election Count

After a decade of chaos and civil war, Libyans have grown disenchanted with politics. In the run-up to the first round of the presidential election on December 24, the opportunity to hear the candidates discuss and debate their plans for the country is a crucial step toward building political trust, legitimacy, and stability.

TUNIS – On December 24, Libyans are scheduled to head to the polls for the first round of a presidential election that has been years in the making. The vote comes after decades of dictatorship, civil war, and, more recently, a period of exasperating uncertainty. But for the results to be widely accepted, voters must be able to make an informed decision at the ballot box.

That might not happen. A compressed electoral calendar offers Libyans little time to learn about the more than 70 candidates. The campaign period has been reduced to two weeks, owing to the presence of foreign forces in the country and fears of renewed conflict. Moreover, the country’s fractured media environment limits the availability of accurate information about the candidates. Without the opportunity for vigorous public debate, the election results will reflect – and possibly exacerbate – the country’s prevailing divisions. Despite most Libyans’ obvious desire for peace and stability, the election could lead to more violence.

Following the end of the second Libyan civil war in October 2020, a peace process brokered by the United Nations produced the country’s eighth transitional government since the overthrow of Muammar el-Qaddafi’s regime in 2011. One of this government’s primary objectives has been to organize Libya’s first-ever popular vote for president. To support this process, my colleagues and I have spent the better part of the past year planning for the country’s inaugural presidential debates.