By Jason Pack
Despite the momentum and attention it has received in recent weeks, the United Nations-facilitated Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) now appears on the brink of collapse.
The LPDF came to an abrupt conclusion last night without its delegates appointing a new list of Presidential Council (PC) members or leadership for a unity government to lead a fourth transitional phase, as intended.
Instead, delegates dispersed under a cloud of controversy, leaving Acting Special Envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams facing a host of challenges before the meetings will resume virtually in a week’s time.
The LPDF’s hasty “conclusion” coincided with credible reports that some delegates had been offered significant bribes for preferential voting on the positions of the new head of the PC and the prime minister.
Among those rumored to have offered bribes is Abdulhamid Dabaiba, a notable Misratan businessman and brother of Ali Dabaiba, one of the LPDF delegates.
Though Dabaiba denies these claims, he is seen as one of the most corrupt beneficiaries of the status quo both during and since the Gadhafi period, and thus is likely to have an interest in influencing the appointment of Libya’s new leadership.
Williams said an investigation would be opened into these claims.
Additionally, Williams indicated that delegates would be voting on a proposed selection criterion for filling the transitional appointments that would bar any individual who had held official position since 2014.
Williams said delegates had agreed that a 75 percent majority vote was needed to pass the proposal. Such a rule would be a chilling resurrection of the Political Isolation Law passed in 2013, which barred Gadhafi-era officials from holding political office — only this time applied to the post-Gadhafi civil wars period.
However, according to reports, only 61 percent of delegates voted in favor of the proposal, indicating that individuals who have been in office since 2014 may hold a role in the upcoming fourth transitional phase.
The LPDF was aimed at short-cutting Libya’s political and military stalemate by establishing a fourth transitional phase — complete with a roadmap to future Libyan elections and the naming of the new executive authority and a transitional government for that phase.
However, it has come under significant criticism for the allegedly “opaque” manner in which delegates were selected and the legal and popular legitimacy of not only its attendees, but any outcome reached by them.
Moreover, the absence of perceived legitimacy as a process not derived from either the international community, the U.N., Libyan law, or popular Libyan sentiment — now combined with claims of bribery — will make it extremely difficult for the U.N. to generate buy-in on the ground should the online sessions reach any conclusions.
The U.N.’s approach to achieving a political solution to Libya’s conflict is now highly vulnerable to falling apart.
Russia, Turkey, Egypt, and France are all positioning themselves to supplant the U.N. as the leader of the Libya file during this critical stage, and are likely to introduce in the coming days alternative dialogues and roadmaps they have long been preparing.
As this is happening, key regional and international actors may attempt to favorably position their Libyan clients as a means of securing their own influence in North Africa’s future political environment and protecting their strategic and commercial interests in Libya.
Jason Pack is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Middle East Institute and the Founder of Libya-Analysis LLC.
Statement By Stephanie Williams On The First Round Of The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum
Acting Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (ASRSG) and Head of the United Nations Support Mission (UNSMIL) in Libya Stephanie Williams announced yesterday the conclusion of the first round of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), which took place from 7-15 November in Tunis, Tunisia.
The talks took place on the basis of the mandate of Security Council Resolution 2510 (2020), which endorsed the conclusions of the Berlin Conference on Libya held on 19 January 2020.
The 75 Libyan representatives to the LPDF consensually agreed on a Roadmap to credible, inclusive and democratic national elections, to be held on 24 December 2021.
This historic date, which will mark 70 years to the day since Libya declared independence in 1951, will finally provide Libyans with an opportunity to end the transitional phase and choose a new way forward.
The roadmap represents a rights-based process and responds to the hopes and demands expressed by the many Libyan stakeholders, groups and people the UN has engaged with throughout this process thus far.
Participants also agreed the need to reform the executive authority in line with the conclusions of the Berlin Conference.
They outlined the structure and prerogatives for the Presidency Council and a separate Head of Government. They also decided on eligibility criteria for these posts.
Women participants at the LPDF came together to issue a statement outlining a series of principles and recommendations for improving women’s participation in the political process and governance.
They stated the need for better representation of women in political life, and for the State to fulfill its international commitments regarding the rights and protection of women.
Their demand that women should account for no less than 30% of leadership positions in the reformed executive authority was also echoed in the Roadmap, attesting to the positive role they played in the dialogue.
The Roadmap, Prerogatives Document, Eligibility Criteria and the statement from the women participants form the formal outputs of this round of the LPDF.
Discussions will continue in the coming weeks online over reforming the executive, and on the constitution.
An online meeting of the LPDF is already planned for November 23 in order to reach an agreement on the selection criteria for the reformed Presidency Council and the Prime Minister.
No single event can ever fully represent Libya’s diversity.
This latest round of the LPDF came after months of consultations and work with youth, women, municipalities, the Libyan Economic Experts Commission and the rapidly progressing military talks with the Joint Military Commission.
All these tracks will continue in parallel with the political process over the next few months.
ASRSG Williams thanked the 75 Libyan personalities who form the LPDF for their national spirit and their expressed desire to forge an inclusive solution to the longstanding Libyan crisis.
She expressed her gratitude to Tunisian President Kais Saied for Tunisia’s generous hosting of the event and to the Governments of Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union for their generous material assistance for the event.
ASRSG Williams also took this opportunity to express her sincere gratitude to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue for its tireless assistance and support to the LPDF.