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Will World Powers Rubber-Stamp Libya’s Tainted Election?

Backers of Libya’s factions meet in Paris today to affirm their support for what is likely to become a messy election period.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
French President Emmanuel Macron looks at Libya's interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah
French President Emmanuel Macron looks at Libya's interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah as he gives a speech at the Élysée Palace in Paris on June 1. GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: World leaders gather in Paris for Libya conference, COP26 enters final negotiations, and Bulgaria prepares for its third election this year.

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World Powers Hold Libya Talks

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: World leaders gather in Paris for Libya conference, COP26 enters final negotiations, and Bulgaria prepares for its third election this year.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


World Powers Hold Libya Talks

French President Emmanuel Macron hosts world leaders in Paris today for an international conference on Libya’s political transition as the country prepares for elections in December.

The meeting, co-hosted by Germany, France, Italy, and the United Nations, is expected to affirm international support for the electoral process in a country that has lacked political stability ever since a NATO-backed force toppled Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011.

That the election is set to go ahead while Libya is still divided, and with foreign fighters still present, has fed worries that the vote is being held too soon and will inevitably be tainted.

Faced with a situation in which both a contested election or its delay could lead to violence, international powers are expected to opt for momentum over stasis, in the hopes that a democratically elected government will have more legitimacy to deal with the country’s problems than the current government.

Whether the major powers deciding Libya’s future see much to gain from the summit can be deduced by the diplomatic weighting of each delegation. Russia is sending its Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (after it secured a meeting with French foreign and defense ministers to take place beforehand), Turkey is sending its Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal, and Vice President Kamala Harris represents the United States. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi joins the conference as one of the few heads of state in attendance.

Jason Pack, the author of Libya and the Global Enduring Disorder, doesn’t expect much to come out of the conference other than posturing as France attempts to rebrand itself as the main Western mediator in Libya amid apparent U.S. retrenchment.

As candidates begin to register for elections, speculation about Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s presidential aspirations has raised fears that the warlord could rig the vote in his favor. This scenario, according to Pack, is a red herring.

With Haftar considered a spent force after his forces failed to take Tripoli in 2020, power in eastern Libya now lies with Aguila Saleh, the speaker of Libya’s Tobruk-based House of Representatives, who was criticized in November for forcing through new electoral laws without a parliamentary vote (and previously targeted by the U.S. Treasury for hampering Libya’s transition in 2016). “Aguila has all the power to set the terms of these elections. It’s the Aguila show, and it’s been the Aguila show the whole time,” Pack said.

Whether or not the timing makes any sense, the desire for a change in leadership is strong among Libyans, Tarek Megerisi, a Libya expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Foreign Policy. “I think the population are so fed up with the incumbent political class, they would jump at a real chance to get rid of them,” Megerisi said. “But this electoral process that has been put in place lacks even the smallest modicum of integrity. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion.”


What We’re Following Today

COP26 concludes. The United Nations climate summit COP26 ends today in Glasgow, Scotland, after nearly two weeks of negotiations over all aspects of climate policy. What remains is for countries to agree to a final joint statement, known as a cover decision, on commitments to meet following the summit.

A draft released early Wednesday called on countries to phase out coal as well as fossil fuel subsidies and to “revisit and strengthen” 2030 greenhouse gas reduction targets. Climate activists criticized the initial draft for weaknesses on climate finance and a lack of agreement to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Erdogan hosts Aliyev. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosts his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Istanbul today, one year after Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a cease-fire agreement bringing an end to the most recent full-scale conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. The meeting comes as Turkey hosts the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, as well as Aliyev, for a summit of the Organization of Turkic States, a group formerly known as the Turkic Council before a name change earlier this week.


Keep an Eye On

Xi and Biden on the slopes? Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to invite U.S. President Joe Biden to join him in Beijing in February for the 2022 Winter Olympics, according to a CNBC report on Thursday. The two leaders are set to meet virtually next week in a bid to smooth over tensions surrounding Taiwan, trade, and human rights. It’s not clear how sincere Xi’s gesture could be, seeing as Western powers have for months mulled a diplomatic boycott of the games.

Bulgaria’s election. Bulgarians head to the polls for the third time this year on Sunday in another parliamentary election, in the hopes of finally forming a stable government. The center-right GERB party of former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov currently leads in polls with 24 percent support, while a new centrist party, We Continue the Change, polls in second place. The populist party There Is Such a People won the most votes in July’s election but has faded in popularity since then.

Sudan’s coup. Sudan coup leader Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announced a new transitional council on Thursday, naming himself as the chair. Representatives of the Forces of Freedom and Change, a coalition of civilian groups instrumental in the overthrow of former dictator Omar al-Bashir, were not named to the 14-member council.


Odds and Ends

A parents group has filed a complaint with South Korea’s human rights watchdog against the country’s Ministry of Education over the kinds of food being served to kindergartners in the public school system. The civic group, Political Mamas, maintains that the food provided by school cafeterias is too spicy.

The problem stems from certain schools with elementary education included, the group said, where children as old as 13 and as young as 5 end up eating from the same menu.

As the Korea Times reports, not all parents share Political Mamas’ views, but the group maintains its stance is about more than picky eating. “Not being able to eat spicy food is not about preference or bad habits the children have to break. Forcing them to eat such food is nothing but a human rights violation,” the group said in a statement.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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