Libya's planned 24 December election cannot take place amid continued arguments and fears for electoral integrity after major security incidents, a member of the elections commission today told Al Jazeera.
Rival candidates and political factions have been exchanging recriminations, accusing each other of trying to block or manipulate the electoral process for their own advantage.
International powers pushing for elections along with the UN have maintained their stance that polls must go ahead but this week stopped referring to the planned 24 December date in public statements.
Eight days before Libyans were meant to cast presidential votes, there is utter confusion over the fate of an election that has not yet been formally delayed but that even an electoral official now says will be impossible to hold on time, Reuters reports.
The planned 24 December vote, along with a parallel election for a new parliament, was meant to help end Libya's past decade of chaos by installing a political leadership with national legitimacy after years of factional division.
However, the process has been dogged since the start by bitter disputes over the election's legal basis and fundamental rules, including over the eligibility of deeply divisive front-runners, that have never been resolved.
On Saturday the electoral commission said it would not announce the final list of eligible candidates, drawn from the 98 who registered, until after legal discussions with the judiciary and parliament.
Few of the Libyans Reuters spoke to today believed the vote would happen on time, though many expected only a short delay. "It will be postponed for a maximum of three months," said Ahmed Ali, 43, in Benghazi.
Over recent weeks very large numbers of Libyans have collected their ballot cards and thousands have registered to be parliamentary candidates, apparently signifying widespread popular support for an election.
Tim Eaton of Chatham House, the London think tank, said Libya's political bodies were not ready to publicly say the vote would not happen for fear of being blamed for its failure.
"It's pretty clear that the legal wranglings cannot be resolved in the current circumstances," he said. "No one thinks this is happening on time, but nobody is saying it."
It left a choice between short delays to find fixes to push the elections over the line or longer delays to reshape the political road map, which could also include replacing the transitional government, he added.
Since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has had no political stability and in 2014 the country split between warring eastern and western factions.