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Analysis

Libyan Political Impasse and the Domino of Unimplemented Agreements

Saturday 27 May 2023
Libyan Political Impasse and the Domino of Unimplemented Agreements

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Alwaght- As Libya is passing the 12th year of its civil war, it is reaching the sensitive stage of electing a government whose job will be uniting the east and the west of the country. Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, the country's internationally-recognized caretaker prime minister is ruling over the capital Tripoli while the rebellious General Khalifa Haftar holds the east with his forces, and despite the UN push for a solution, no tangible progress has so far been made. Facing a stalemate, the opposite sides have recently sat together for a peace roadmap to end years of bloodshed in the country. 

To this end, 6+6 joint committee, also called State Council Committee (SCC), issued a statement on Monday after two days of negotiations between the two rivals in the Moroccan city of Bouznika. Omar Abulifa, the head of the SCC said that the two sides agreed that the national legislative body should be formed of House of Representatives and Senate. Also, the joint committee managed to make progress in determining and distributing the seats of the House of Representatives and the Senate based on constituencies, setting guidelines for the formation and approval of the list of candidates, representation of women, preventing electoral frauds, processing protests related to the election of the prime minister, the Houses of Representatives and the Senate, as well as determining the right of all candidates to access state and private media. 

According to these agreements, parliamentary and presidential elections will be held simultaneously, guaranteeing a comprehensive electoral process. In order to complete all the procedures and laws related to the election process, the joint committee will continue its meetings in consultation with the judiciary, the election commission and the UN mission in Libya. The committee was formed in March by 12 members from the House of Representatives and the Supreme State Council of Libya, with 6 members from each side. 

A political source said that this agreement was reached following recent meetings in Cairo, Egypt between representatives from the National Unity Government (NUG) and Haftar, and according to which Dbeibeh will be the PM of the future government and in return he will abandon his pressures aimed at blocking Haftar from running for presidential election. This agreement will allow approving laws that give a green light to candidacy of dual nationals and military personnel for election. Haftar was barred from running for president for his American citizenship and also being a military man. 

The 6+6 committee is responsible for determining the laws for the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in the country. It is a committee representing the two Libyan legislative bodies and agreed on the drafting electoral laws to enable holding elections highly important for the peace and stability in the country. The latest round of negotiations was, as ever, held with the mediation of UN Libya envoy Abdallah Bathili, seeking an end to the 12-year civil war by convincing both sides to walk back from their demands and concede to lasting peace. 

This meeting followed a session of Tabruk parliament in the east on May 16 that removed PM-designate Fathi Bashagha. The Tobruk parliament in February 2022 had tasked Bashagha with forming a new government, but Dbeibeh opposed the move, causing new division in the country. The country has been affected by civil war and instability since the ouster of the slain dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and tens of thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. 

Dim outlook for agreements 

Despite the fact that Libyan groups have agreed to a roadmap to end the tensions and hold dual elections in the upcoming months, due to their not so bright record in fulfilling their commitments, there is no clear outlook for the agreement. 

Libyan groups met in May 2018 in Paris and agreed to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in December the same year, but the agreement remained ink on the paper as no elections were held. 

In September 2020, the parties involved met for the first time under the framework of the 6+6 committee and with the UN mediation in Morocco in order to find a solution to end the tensions, and in this meeting, like in the previous one, they agreed on a ceasefire and holding elections. They set the elections for December 24, 2021, and emphasized that none of the politicians present in the transitional government should join the race. But since some figures within the transitional government opposed the candidacy of Haftar, the agreements, like their predecessors, did not go anywhere, perpetuating the chaos. The record of these failures to advance the political process casts doubt on the recent agreement. 

Though the warring sides do not want to work with each other under a united front and this is making difficult the road to peace and stability, a large part of the chaos in the country stems from policies dictated by foreign actors that, by supporting opposite sides of the conflict, are seeking their own interests in this North African country. 

In the past decade, it became crystal clear that regional and trans-regional states have interests and reservations in Libya, and they would not allow the country to rest unless their interests are realized. The Western countries and Turkey back the Tripoli-based government, but Russia and some Persian Gulf Arab countries support Haftar, and these interventions have so far fueled the war in the country. 

Some of these countries provide weapons and vehicles to both sides, fomenting the fighting in violation of the UN Security Council resolution of 2011 which banned arms supplies to Libya. Therefore, as long as arms support of foreign sides is not stopped, peace remains a dream. So, inter-Libyan agreements for unity do not appeal to trans-regional actors that weigh up such deals with the scale of their own interests while the Libyan people pass their days struggling to restore security and peace. 

Some political experts believe that Libyan crisis has no military solution since priorities of the decision makers change depending on the conditions. For example, after Ukraine war and Western-Russian confrontation, Libya was moved off agenda of these powers. If the international community has a will to end Libyan conflict, it should forge a mechanism or an independent court trying those responsible for crimes in the country to prepare the ground for a transitional government. 

Libya's conditions these days are expressive of the fact that existence of rival administrations in the east and west has yielded instability and complicated bureaucracy. Long-time lack of a coherent governing body and integrated political leadership have aggravated the political and economic frailty in the war-torn nation. Therefore, when war ends and transition arrangements are advanced, Libyans will grow happy and optimistic about walking a bright path to democratic elections. But when the agreements fail and elections and peace are postponed, frustration replaces optimism. Currently, local and national leaders who work towards stability with good faith are growing pessimistic about the national political reconciliation as the ruling elites and their international partners fail to restore security and build proper governance. 

As a conclusion, it can be suggested that the current Libyan conditions are in a way that if this time, too, the political sides decline to fulfill their commitments, internal divisions will widen and throw the country in another twist of crisis and violence and it is people who will pay the price of ambitions of their politicians. 

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Libya Government Elections Haftar Dbeibeh Civil War

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