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UN fears new Libyan fracture

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Thursday, March 17th 2022 à 16:55 | Read 201 times

Rosemary DiCarlo warns of the impasse in the political situation in Libya (photo: UN/Loey Felipe)
Rosemary DiCarlo warns of the impasse in the political situation in Libya (photo: UN/Loey Felipe)
LIBYA. Once again, the UN is concerned about the political situation in Libya, while showing its powerlessness. The instability is at its highest with two parallel governments opposing each other in this country that seems to be returning to its old demons. Those responsible for the outbreak of the second civil war (2014-2020).
"Libya is now facing a new phase of political polarisation that risks dividing its institutions once again and reversing the progress made over the past two years," Rosemary DiCarlo told the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday 16 March 2022. The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Peacebuilding also notes "an increase in reported human rights violations, hate speech, defamation and threats, and violence against activists, journalists and political actors."

On 10 February 2022, the House of Representatives (HoR) based in Tobruk, in the east of the country, appointed a new Prime Minister  Fathi Bachagha, a former Interior Minister, who rushed to Tripoli to exercise his power. However, a prime minister was, and still is, in the capital, refusing to give up his position until the ballot box is cast. Abdel Hamid Dbeibah is clinging to his seat as head of the Government of National Unity (GNU), which he has held since March 2021. His legitimacy comes from the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, which gave him a mandate until 24 June 2022.

Failure to organise elections

The interim Prime Minister was however in charge of organising a presidential election, the first in the country since its creation, before opening the field to legislative elections. The election was scheduled for 24 December 2021, but was postponed to 24 January 2021 and then to the Greek calendar, as the conditions for a national vote had not been met. The House of Representatives interprets the failure to successfully implement the transition to the ballot box as a failure. Its president, Aguila Saleh, who is in charge of placing Marshal Khalifa Haftar at the head of Libya, believes that the failure to meet the deadlines set makes the mandate of Abdel Hamid Dbeibah null and void. Hence the appointment of Fathi Bachagha, but also the resignation of several GNU ministers who joined his camp.

However, some MPs, such as Mohammed Al-Raied, do not share this view. They form an opposition bloc to oust Aguila Saleh from his omnipotent presidency, which has been in place for eight years, while no legislative elections have been held in the country since 25 June 2014. The 188 members of the HoR (out of 200 planned, but the civil war did not allow voting to take place in all constituencies) were then elected for... one year.

Based in Tripoli, like the GNU, the High State Council, the upper house resulting from the UN-backed Libyan Political Agreement of late December 2015, rejected on 24 February 2022 the appointment of a new Prime Minister.
The East versus West partition is once again playing its military music. A funeral march already heard from 2014 to 2020 during the second Libyan civil war, which resulted in at least 14,500 deaths, including 2,400 civilians, according to Acled (Armed conflict location and event data project of the University of Sussex).

No national budget adopted since February 2021

While the country is rebuilding after two civil wars, politicians are unable to agree on governance and organise elections (photo: OCHA/Giles Clarke)
While the country is rebuilding after two civil wars, politicians are unable to agree on governance and organise elections (photo: OCHA/Giles Clarke)
The political stalemate has been denounced by the UN, which sees the reunification work it has been carrying out for the past two years gradually disintegrating. Libya needs to have a government that has emerged from the ballot box as soon as possible in order to begin the vast work necessary to rebuild and recover a flourishing economy after ten years of civil war. No national budget has been adopted since February 2021, and even then it was only for two months. The HoR refuses to vote on them.
The UN also highlights the "lack of control and clarity of public spending". But also the obstacles to the functioning of the NOC (National Oil Corporation), the national oil company which brings in 95% of the country's revenue ($21.55 billion in net revenue from hydrocarbons in 2021). Its president since May 2014, the irremovable Mustafa Sanalla, was in total disagreement with Mohamed Aoun, ex-minister of Oil since recently. He has in fact just rallied to the new Prime Minister while he tried several times (notably during the summer of 2021) to sideline the president of the NOC.

"Our priority is to focus on fulfilling the aspirations of the more than 2.8 million Libyans who have registered to vote," says DiCarlo. "They should be able to choose their leaders in credible, transparent and inclusive elections, according to an agreed constitutional and legal framework," she said. For the Libyan High National Electoral Commission (HNEC), the conditions are not met because of an insufficient electoral law (unilaterally amended by the Parliament) and the difficulty of validating certain candidates for the presidential elections. She has been carrying this message for months, but everyone seems to be turning a deaf ear or, worse, practising the Coué method, such as the UN and the Western powers in general.

To create a breach in the wall that is being erected between the West and the East, Stephanie Williams, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General, suggests creating a joint commission, composed of members of the House of Representatives and the High Council of State. Its role: to find common ground and restart the electoral process as soon as possible, and in any case by 2022. Stephanie Williams also proposes to mediate between Abdel Hamid Dbeibah and Fathi Bachagha.

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