Libya’s election commission has called for the country’s first presidential poll to be postponed for a month, leaving the internationally-backed peace process in chaos and the fate of the interim government in doubt.
It proposed the new date of 24 January after “liaising” with parliament, the commission said.
The election was originally called through a U.N.-backed roadmap that envisaged simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections on December 24, Libya’s national day.
The strategically important country that is a major oil producer and a transit point for migrants to Europe has been in turmoil since long-serving ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, was overthrown and killed.
The election is hoped to bolster efforts to achieve peace and democracy in Libya.
A parliamentary committee had earlier said that it would be “impossible” to hold elections on Friday over the rules, including the eligibility of several divisive candidates and growing security fears.
The electoral committee’s statement on Wednesday added that the government’s mandate would expire on Friday. However, other main factions and political institutions may stick with the government, which is also recognised by the United Nations.
Large numbers of Libyans had already registered for voting cards for the election in what politicians on all sides in Libya have said is a sign of strong popular desire for a vote.
The collapse of the electoral process risks aggravating local disputes and a new round of fighting, with mobilisations in Tripoli and other western areas by armed groups.
It could also undo the wider U.N.-backed peace process between Libya’s main eastern and western camps that have maintained a ceasefire since last year.