Libya: Serraj calls for presidential, parliamentary elections in March

In a major speech setting out his vision of how Libya can end its political crisis, Presidency Council head Faiez Serraj has called for radical changes in the way the country has been operating.

Among the changes he announced last night are parliamentary and head-of-state elections in March next year. In addition, there should be a national programme to gather up weapons; the demobilisation of militias; a national reconciliation campaign; economic reform; increased spending on healthcare, education and social services and a crackdown on corruption, smuggling and human trafficking.

Describing his proposals as a road map to get the country out of its present divisions, he also wants transitional justice mechanisms put in place to help resolve the catastrophes and problems people have faced since the start of the revolution. This would include compensation as well as amnesties. There had to be reconciliation between all the various factions, he said, calling on all who had fled the country for whatever reason to return home.

There also had to be respect for all the country’s different cultural components – a reference to the Amazigh, Tebu and Tuareg communities as well as the Ibadi and Sufi traditions, as well as those now supporting a more radical brand of Islam.

“Not everyone we have disagreed with from home is a terrorist”, he declared.

Libya belonged to all Libyans “without exception”, he insisted. To that end, he proposed setting up a Supreme Council for National Reconciliation, composed of a hundred members, which would have branches in all towns and areas, and would prepare for a national conference to end the current divisions and enmities.

Bypassing the efforts of the Constitution Drafting Assembly which, three and a half years after it was supposed to come up with a proposal constitution, has still failed to do so, Serraj also came up with a series of proposals that would see a head of state being directly elected and who would nominate a new government. Meanwhile, he proposed that the HoR and the State Council set up joint committees to agree an amendment to the Constitutional Declaration that would determine the powers of the head of state.

There was no mention in Serraj’s speech of those who want to bring down the Presidency Council or refuse to work with it – notably Khalifa Ghwell and the assorted militants backing him in the west of the country and, in the east, the House of Representatives’ president Ageela Saleh, interim prime minister Abdullah Al-Thinni and Libyan National Army head Khalifa Hafter However, without naming anyone, he praised those who had rid Benghazi of terrorism, as he also praised those in the Bunyan Marsous operation that had defeated the Islamic State in Sirte.

Nonetheless, in an indirect reference to Hafter, he said there had to be a separation of powers, with the military unified under civilian authority. In addition to a national programme for the collection of weapons, the militias had to be demobilised or integrated into state institutions, he said. Admitting that security was the major problem, he claimed that advances were being made and, somewhat startlingly, that the police were “able to secure the entire capital”.

There was, though, strong criticism of the Central Bank of Libya which he indicated needed to be reformed. In particular, it had to solve the liquidity crisis and, in what is the first direct call from the Presidency Council, it had also to alter the exchange rate of the dinar.

In contrast, there was implied praise for the National Oil Corporation and it head Mustafa Sanalla. Noting the rise in production and that it was now around a million barrels a day, he called for it to rise as high as possible.

Serraj has been constantly accused of being too weak ever since he was first named head of the Presidency Council. Yesterday’s speech is his toughest to date and follows in a new bullish mode that was first in evidence last week when he called for smugglers to bombed.

Action against smugglers was again touched on last night. They and those Libya officials involved in corruption had to be dealt with, he insisted.

Declaring that the Presidency Council was not party to the county’s present divisions, it nonetheless had to act, he said.

“We’re running out of time to work together, so we may have to take extraordinary measures to fix this,” he declared.