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Reuters

What We’re Watching: Libya delays vote, Sudan’s embattled PM, COVID cures, EU-UK fish deal

Libya election postponed. As many had expected, Libya’s election will in fact be postponed. The vote, the first since psycho autocrat Muammar Qaddafi was ousted in a NATO-backed uprising 10 years ago, was supposed to happen on Friday. Now the country’s electoral board says it will be postponed by a month, until January 24. The move isn’t a surprise: for weeks the two rival governments that run Libya — and their outside backers — have been squabbling over electoral rules and candidate eligibility. The question now is whether delaying the vote genuinely gives the parties time to agree on a process that seems legitimate enough to hold, or whether the move risks further unraveling a fragile and fragmented country. The UN has already raised alarm about rival armed groups setting up positions in and around Tripoli.

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Libya’s bad choices

It’s been a decade since Muammar Qaddafi, one of the world’s most eccentric despots, was ousted and killed in a popular uprising. But instead of enjoying a new democratic dawn, Libya has since spiraled into inter-factional conflict and chaos.

The country’s luck is supposed to change next week when Libya’s first democratic elections are scheduled to take place. But it now seems all but certain that the vote will be stalled — or scrapped altogether.

What’s the state of play in Libya, and why are so many external powers jockeying for power in this poorly understood country of 7 million people?

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Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, son of Libya's former leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, registers as a presidential candidate for the December 24 election, at the registration centre in the southern town of Sebha, Libya November 14, 2020.

Khaled Al-Zaidy/Handout via REUTERS

What We're Watching: Qaddafi junior runs for Libyan president

Qaddafi redux in Libya? From the progeny of one dictator to another. Ten years after the death of former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi, his son Saif — dressed in Berber robes eerily similar to his father's classic outfit — registered on Sunday to run for president in the December 24 election. With his comeback, Saif Qaddafi hopes that those nostalgic for the stability of the previous regime, as well as Libyans tired of the decade of chaos and civil war that followed his dad's ouster, will give him their vote. But if the elections happen at all, which is quite uncertain due to ongoing bickering between factions on the rules and schedule, Qaddafi's son faces long odds. For one thing, it's unlikely he will campaign in public because he fears for his safety and has an outstanding ICC arrest warrant for crimes against humanity (a Libyan court also sentenced him to death for war crimes in 2015, although that ruling was later overturned). For another, he'll be up against tough rivals backed by different groups of foreign powers like General Khalifa Haftar, a warlord supported by the Gulf states and Russia; Aguila Saleh, the influential parliamentary speaker; and PM Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, head of the UN-backed National Unity Government.

Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi attends a celebration of the 40th anniversary of his coming to power at the Green Square in Tripoli September 1, 2009.

REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

On 10th anniversary of Qaddafi’s death, signs of stability in Libya

Former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi was killed by rebels on 20 October, 2011, after a NATO intervention designed to protect civilians helped strengthen an uprising against his regime. Since then, the country has been mired in chaos as different factions have battled for control, resulting in extensive destruction and human causalities. Libya has been nominally governed since 2014 by warring administrations backed by foreign powers in the west and east of the country. Last year, UN mediation efforts finally began to gain traction with an agreement on a cease-fire and a roadmap for elections to be held later this year. We talked with Eurasia Group expert Ahmed Morsy to find out how things are going.

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A rebel fighter holds a Kingdom of Libya flag and a knife during shelling by soldiers loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in a battle near Ras Lanuf, March 4, 2011.

REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

What We’re Watching: Libya’s future, Azeris and Iranians bicker, Shakira fights wild boars

Will Libya's elections go ahead? Should they? Libya, mired in a decade-long civil war, is set to hold elections for a new president and parliament later this year. The US, along with Italy and France, say that elections should go ahead no matter what. But other Western players have pushed back, saying that ongoing civil war means the country isn't yet ready for democracy, and the result of an election won't be deemed legitimate. Meanwhile, an estimated 10,000-20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries are still lurking in Libya, mostly deployed by Russia and Turkey, neither of which are in any hurry to recall their mercs, perhaps just in case the election doesn't work out and Libya slides back into civil war. Complicating matters further, last week the lower house of parliament passed a no-confidence vote against the UN-backed government over misuse of public funds. The interim government has been accused of stalling elections, instead calling for a "stabilization initiative" that would help lay the groundwork for a free and fair vote later on. But that is unlikely to fly with general Khalifa Hafta, who heads the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army and has long been vying for control of the oil-rich country.

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US Supreme Court building in Washington, DC.

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

What We're Watching: SCOTUS wades into abortion minefield, mercs in Libya, Chinese kids learn how Xi thinks

SCOTUS lights the fuse on a culture war bomb: Texas imposed a near complete ban on abortion on Wednesday, hours after the US Supreme Court declined to rule on whether a law that prohibits the procedure after doctors can detect a fetal "heartbeat" is constitutional. Pro-choice Americans say the law, written by the Republican-controlled Texas legislature, violates the provisions of the landmark 1973 Roe vs Wade, in which the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is, with some caveats, a constitutional right. The law would make it illegal to abort as early as six weeks into pregnancy, in effect outlawing some 85 percent of elective abortions in the state. Although President Biden says he opposes the law and would protect Roe v Wade, he has yet to take any concrete action. SCOTUS could still rule on the law, but the debate around it is certain to be a major third-rail issue in US politics as the 2022 midterms approach. A majority of Americans say abortion should be legal in almost all cases, but the split is sharply partisan: 80 percent of Democrats agree, compared to only 35 percent of Republicans.

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A protester holds a placard during a protest in defense of free media in Gdansk, Poland.

Tomasz Zasinski / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

What We’re Watching: Polish coalition on the ropes, Ethiopian PM’s call to arms, Russian mercs in Libya

Polish government in trouble: Poland's rightwing coalition government is on the ropes after PM Mateusz Morawiecki fired his deputy, Jaroslaw Gowin, for opposing two key pieces of legislation: a raft of tax reforms that Morawiecki says will help the middle class but Gowin fears will actually hurt them, as well as a proposed new law restricting foreign media ownership, which critics say is meant to silence unfriendly reporting by a US-owned TV network. Without the support of Gowin's small center-right Agreement party, the coalition government — formed by the ruling PiS and the far-right United Poland — could lose its slim majority in parliament, which in turn would force Morawiecki to call an early election. If he does so, he'll face a tough rival in a familiar face for Poles: former PM and European Commission top honcho Donald Tusk, who wants to run for his old job.

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Libyans are seen through a Kingdom of Libya flag during a celebration rally in front of the residence of Muammar Gaddafi at the Bab al-Aziziyah complex in Tripoli on September 13, 2011.

REUTERS/Suhaib Salem/File Photo

What We’re Watching: Libya’s future, Russia vs UK in Black Sea, US blocks Iranian news sites

Peace in Libya? Representatives from several outside players with a stake in Libya's future are meeting in Berlin with the country's interim unity government to chart a path toward peace after a decade of bloody internal conflict. Since 2011, the energy-rich North African country has been split between areas controlled by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army, a militia headed by warlord Khalifa Haftar. It's long been a proxy war as well, with Turkey backing the GNA and Gulf states and Russia supporting Haftar. One major concern is what to do with the 20,000 foreign troops currently in the country, which include Turkish soldiers and Syrian fighters on Ankara's payroll in Tripoli, as well as Russian mercenaries. Western powers want the Turks and Russians to withdraw their forces, but Ankara and Moscow would rather wait to see how things play out. Another thorny issue is how 75 UN-appointed Libyan lawmakers will agree on the legal basis to hold a general election in December without a constitution in place. We'll be tracking progress on both.

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