Libya: genuine progress or cynical opportunism?


Published on Monday, 21 August 2023 Back to articles

House speaker Aguila Saleh, LAAF commander Khalifa Haftar, and Presidential Council head Mohamed al-Menfi – Benghazi – 19.08.23

Libya’s current political situation continues to be marked by stalemate because the country’s incumbent politicians are pursuing very different strategies to reach early elections. They disingenuously claim that this is their ultimate objective when, in reality, they either want to retain political power for themselves, or control those who succeed them. 

The eastern based House of Representatives (House) has made a number of amendments to draft election laws and has resubmitted them to the Joint Electoral Committee (a.k.a. 6+6 Committee) for its final approval. Simultaneously, however, the newly elected head of the Tripoli-based High Council of the State (HCS), Mohamed Tekala, has pledged to reach political solutions to promote stability, national reconciliation, and early elections (Libya Politics & Security – 14.08.23). Unless one or both sides are prepared to compromise, the political impasse will continue and elections will get kicked further into the long grass. 

There is additional uncertainty following an agreement between three of the country’s most powerful individuals. They are insisting on Libya’s domestic ownership of the political process which suggests that they are likely to proceed with installing yet another pre-election interim government.

Following a 19 August meeting in Benghazi between the three — Presidential Council head Mohamed al-Menfi; House speaker Aguila Saleh; and Khalifa Haftar, who is the General Commander of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) — they issued a joint statement which confirmed their agreement on the path towards elections. 

It can also be interpreted as a diplomatically worded warning to Abdoulaye Bathily — the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) — not to oppose the previous agreement between the House and the HCS which included the appointment of a new interim government to replace the incumbent Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU). With reference to Bathily’s previous proposal, to establish a commission to issue electoral laws, the three affirmed that they will boycott any committees except those established within the internal national framework. In reality this means that they will not accept any new arrangement that may risk their positions. They also warned Bathily not to take any unilateral steps in the political track.

On 19 August, al-Menfi also called on the leaders of the House and HCS to engage in consultations to achieve consensus in implementing electoral laws. He also spoke to both the GNU Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah and the new HCS head, Mohamed Tekala, to insist that they adhere to ‘national constants that guarantee national ownership of the national dialogue, guarantee stability, and the completion of elections as soon as possible.’ Al-Menfi informed Bathily of the content of the agreement. The latter reacted with a social media post in which he welcomed coordination with UNSMIL and the joint efforts to encourage a broad consensus among all Libyan parties. 

Despite this, however, it is very unlikely that western Libya will accept any election laws and/or political solution that has been drafted by the eastern-based parliament and powerbrokers and is specifically designed to facilitate Khalifa Haftar’s transition from warlord to president. 

This excerpt is taken from our Libya Politics & Security weekly intelligence report. Click here to receive a free sample copy. Contact for subscription details.

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