Political settlement of the Libyan conflict: expectations vs reality


At the end of last year the participants of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Tunisia decided that the national elections in Libya will be held on December 24, 2021. This decision was celebrated as a chance to reach a final agreement between Faiz Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. And as well as a diplomatic victory of the UN, in particular of the acting UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Libya Stephanie Williams. Her numerous statements consisted hopes for successful holding of elections which “imply the establishment of a new executive branch which can unite the country and creation of a new reformed presidential council, as well as an effective and unified government of national unity.”

But these bright mottos came into collision with reality. The members of the power bloc of the GNA Interior Ministry of Libya rejected the mechanism for holding elections in the country, agreed by the negotiators with the support of the UN.

The corresponding statement was published on January 23 at the official page of the Tripoli Defense Forces on Facebook. The unit accused some delegates and the acting UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Libya Stephanie Williams of “pressure and recklessness.”

The security forces of the GNA Interior Ministry appealed to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the ambassadors of the permanent members of the Security Council, as well as representatives of the countries supporting the Political Dialogue Forum on Libya, stressing that they are following the negotiation process:

“We noticed a deviation from the right path, as well as a number of irregularities, such as the questionable method of selecting some forum members and voting procedures.”

The Tripoli Defense Forces` social media account claims that Williams pushed the inter-Libyan negotiators to support a specific mechanism for holding executive elections. According to the unit, she tried to show that she had achieved significant results in such a short time as the representative of an international organization in the country.

Noteworthy, a number of Libyan political scientists condemned Stephanie Williams for helping to form an overwhelming majority for the members of the “Muslim Brotherhood” organization at the inter-Libyan talks.

Moreover, things are not going too well with the referendum on the adoption of a new constitution which is an obligatory condition of holding national elections in December 2021. Such an agreement was reached by the Libyan House of Representatives and the High Council of State in Egyptian Hurghada on January 20.

This agreement caused a backlash of the Libyan residents as initially a question of an electoral referendum on the constitution was not even at the agenda. In addition, several important amendments have already been adopted to the Libyan constitution, which completely changed the approach to the adoption of the new basic law of the state. For instance, the seventh article was canceled, which stated that in each of the three historical regions of Libya – Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzane – the majority of citizens must vote “pro”. Otherwise, the draft constitution will not be adopted.

But the thing is that most of the population of Libya is concentrated in Tripolitania, so a referendum on the adoption of a new constitution will be reduced to voting in the territories controlled by the Government of National Accord. In this case, voters who live in eastern Libya or in the south of the country controlled by the LNA will not affect the outcome of the referendum, since their votes are in the minority.

It should also be taken into account that the referendum will be attended neither by the representatives of ethnic groups such as the Amazigh, Tebu and Tuareg, who initially boycotted the constitutional body, nor by followers of the Gaddafi regime due to the law on political isolation.

There are also concerns about illegal meddling of certain Libyan political figures into the process of referendum`s and elections` preparation. In particular, experts in the Libyan media call names of the chairman of Libya’s High Council of State Khalid al-Mishri and the speaker of Tobruk based House of Representatives Aguila Saleh.

Specifically, these Libyan officials might participate in theft of funds allocated for the referendum holding. Furthermore, there is a suggestion that Khalid al-Mishri and Aguila Saleh might try to use every opportunity in order to postpone the referendum for as long as possible aiming to delay the process of the power handover in Libya – out of fair fears that this handover can be totally unfavorable for them.



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