Libyans have voiced a mix of frustration and anxiety after elections set for Friday were postponed, which some had hoped would help turn the page on a decade of violence.
After weeks of speculation, authorities confirmed Wednesday that the poll, part of a United Nations-led peace process, would be delayed.
“I had picked up my voting card and I was waiting for the election,” said trader Nabil al-Sharef, sat at a cafe in Tripoli, the capital in the west.
“For me, this delay is a setback and a disappointment,” the 51-year-old said.
The poll was meant to take place just over a year after a landmark east-west ceasefire.
But the run-up to the North African country’s first-ever presidential election has been overshadowed by angry disputes over its legal basis and the candidacies of several controversial figures.
The electoral board has suggested pushing the vote back by a month to January 24, but given the animosity between the eastern-based parliament and authorities in Tripoli, agreeing a new date will be far from easy.
The delay will be a disappointment to some 2.5 million Libyans who had collected their voter cards, out of a population of seven million.
But for Sharef, the situation could get a lot worse.
“I’m waiting for the war to break out again because each faction only serves its own interests, and the people who were against the elections are backed by armed groups,” he said.
That would be a sobering prospect for a country that had seen a year and a half of relative calm since western-based armed groups defeated an offensive by eastern-based military chief Khalifa Haftar to seize Tripoli.
Following a formal ceasefire and a UN-led dialogue process, a transitional government was formed to lead the country to elections.
But tensions between armed groups and institutions remain.