Libya's Political Stalemate

 

Photo source: Anadolu Agency

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

It was in October 2020 when, unpredictably, a ceasefire of sorts, happened inside Libya. It then steered the way for a broad-based political spectrum sponsored by the United Nations in November 2020. The dialogue had managed to appoint a prime minister and a three-member political council, with a planned election in December 2021. However, it has got delayed due to Haftar’s western Libya campaign. There also have been deep disagreements over polls legal basis, and rival political centres in the east and west of the country.

The disagreements are mainly based on designation of headquarters, distribution of seats for both chambers, and division of responsibilities between prime minister, president, cabinet and local government.

The crises have continued in the form of oil wars, too. There has been an internal blockade which has slashed the output since April 2022. Crude pipelines, refineries, and export terminals, have been frequently blockaded by forces loyal to government, vying for power. The blockade of two major oil export terminals and several oilfields began in April 2022, after the eastern-based parliament appointed a new prime minister in a direct challenge to a Tripoli-based unity government.

In July 2022, there had been a protest at Libya’s parliamentary building in the eastern city of Tobruk, who were mainly demonstrating against poor living conditions and political deadlock. Ever since the war began, Libya has seen punishing power cuts as well, but the scenario is not letting the leaders withdraw their egos from the political scene.

Former Tunisian Prime Minister, Youssef Chahed wrote in an Oped for Newsweek: ‘Following the 2011 revolution and for far too long, Libya has been used as a tool for destabilisation and a breeding ground for radical ideologues pushing division, violence and terrorism. The trade routes that once benefited both our countries were essentially cut off. Sadly, aspirations for democratic self-determination in Libya were stymied or squashed against the wishes of the people, fuelling a cycle of hopelessness, distrust and apathy.

Several commentators and analysts also state that the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle by NATO was not designed to protect Gaddafi’s forces in persecuting its own people, but rather there was an ill motive by several countries to steal Libya’s oil wealth through it. The BBC has estimated that over thirty thousand Libyans were killed during NATO operations, while Qaddafi’s forces killed only around hundred people. Infact, the suffering that Libyans have endured is beyond description.

When a UN support mission was created in the aftermath of the civil war to help Libyans for a transition in a post conflict effort, a US diplomat Stephanie Turco Williams was appointed to draw up a roadmap for the constitutional process. When this happened, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh was elected as head of the caretaker government on February 2021. Williams, in turn, had vowed for safeguarding the sanctity of the election process. As members of the caretaker government had to resign before the December 2021 election, Dbeibeh violated this agreement by remaining on his post. Due to this, the Tobruk government declared the caretaker government invalid, stating that Dbeibeh’s mandate had come to an end. That was another reason why the elections in Libya were not held eventually.

However, it had made Tobruk based House of Representatives organise an election on February 2021, and they chose former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha as their prime minister. Although, most of the members of the General National Congress didn’t participate in the election.

As per an article by Yasar Yakis on Arab News, the House of Representatives also claim that Dbeibeh bribed some members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. Whether it is a fact or not, bribery has become common in Libyan politics for a while.

The scenario is also pushing the rivalry between two factions even more. Dbeibeh’s convoy was attacked in Tripoli in February 2022, when Tobruk parliament was about to convene a meeting to elect a new prime minister. It also seems that Dbeibeh will not give up under these uncertain circumstances. He has expressed interest for a referendum on the constitution, parliamentary elections and presidential elections.

Both Dbeibeh and Bashagah believe that fair elections are the only way to lead the country out of crises, but each want the polls to be held by the governments that they are heading. It also seems that Dbeibeh now controls most of the Libya’s assets.

Stephanie Turco Williams, the US diplomat is now trying to come up with a solution in Cairo which is acceptable for both sides, which also reflects that Libyan politics is in need of a strong mediator. However, many common Libyans are also questioning her motives, which involves establishment of a committee that includes representatives of two competing bodies from Tobruk and Tripoli for a consensual agreement. Many Libyans, contrarily, feel that Williams is biased towards Dbeibeh.


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