The ACRPS Democratic Transformation Seminar welcomed several Libyan and Arab researchers to discuss the Libyan transition and the political transformations it has undergone since the outbreak of the 2011 revolution.
Abdelfattah Mady introduced the event, explaining that this study facilitates a discussion for an ACRPS book project to be published under the title Libya: Challenges of Democratic Transition and State Building.
The seminar was held to identify the most prominent aspects of the political transformation since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, how they relate to the democratic transition, and obstacles to that transition. He also explained that the Seminar research group is providing feedback for the authors to benefit from.
The first session was chaired by Ahmed Hussein, editor of the book, and included interventions from Adeel Kindier, Associate Law Professor at the University of Tripoli, Farag Ahmoda, Associate Law Professor at the University of Tripoli and Libyan researcher and journalist, Najwa Wheba.
Introducing the participants to the first session, Hussein conveyed a panoramic view of the main revolutionary milestones and the critical need for a specialised multidisciplinary research project.
Adeel Kindier presented on the Libyan constitutional crisis and its repercussions for the political process, noting that the trend in post-Gaddafi Libya has focused on creating a new constitutional system, bypassing the rules and foundations of the old regime.
He examined the revolutionary context and its implications for Libya’s political trajectory. He explained that a constituent body to draft a constitutional draft in accordance with the 2011 Interim Constitutional Declaration had been elected but was delayed in the drafting process that should have been completed within a period not exceeding 120 days, to last for about three years.
The researcher reviewed a number of legal and political controversies in this context, including the content of the constitution. This controversy contributed to the prolongation of the transitional period, which was extended more than once, amid ever deepening differences between the political forces.
It was accompanied by ideological struggles, debates over the required nature of the state, as well as regional debates about federalism and a unified state. The result of all this was a political crisis that negatively reflected on the adoption of the draft constitution in 2017.
Thus, instead of the draft constitution being a pivotal point leading to the establishment of democracy, negative repercussions reverberated on the political process, and it ended up a cause of further division, congestion, and the faltering of the democratic transition.
Farag Ahmoda discussed the fragmentation of sovereign economic institutions and democratic transformation in Libya, noting that the political division in Libya began with the parliamentary elections in June 2014, with a dispute over legitimacy that led to the Supreme Council declaring the elections unconstitutional.
Since then, the Libyan government has been split. As a result of the Skhirat agreement, new institutions arose to facilitate democratic transition, including the House of Representatives, which regained its legitimacy under the agreement, the State Council and the Presidential Council. However, severe differences concluded in the dissolution of the political agreement itself.
Then the government was divided between the East represented in the House of Representatives and the Interim Government, and the West represented by the Presidential Council, the State Council and the Council of Ministers.
This was accompanied by another split in the sovereign economic institutions represented by the Central Bank of Libya and the National Oil Corporation. The military incursion led by retired Major General Khalifa Haftar into western Libyan regions in April 2019 had further repercussions on the division.
The United Nations addressed the division by agreeing recently to form a national unity government consisting of a presidential council and cabinet, and procedures for controlling the oil sector until a unified government takes over with the unification of the Central Bank of Libya.
Najwa Wheba spoke about transitional justice problems and their impact on the democratic trajectory in Libya. She explained that transitional justice in Libya was stalled, despite the goals of fairness as a popular demand, despite important legislation being passed.
She noted the presence of transitional justice in the proposals of successive governments since the revolution and in the perceptions of various political forces, asserting that a debate arose over accountability and dealing with the crimes of the former regime in exchange for accountability for more recent violations.
Wheba sought to answer the question about society’s options in dealing with the legacy of grave violations and the political and security vacuum. She concluded by saying that, since the start of the internal conflict, the number of violations has exceeded anything Libyans have seen in 40 years.
This is difficult to overcome given the weakness of the political will and the absence of any consensus on transitional justice and democratic transition.
The second session, which was chaired by ACRPS researcher, Mohammed Hemchi, turned to the research of Khiry M. Omar, visiting professor at Sakarya University in Turkey, Ali Salem, Law professor at Sebha University, and Abdelhamid Siyam, researcher and supervisor of the ACRPS project on “The United Nations and Arab Issues. “
In his intervention on the electoral system in Libya and the political transition, Khiry Omar discussed the background of the electoral system formed after the 2011 revolution and its effect on the paths of political transformation.
He noted that the elections had resulted in the formation of the General National Congress, the constituent body for drafting the constitution, and then the House of Representatives, and that their implications raise questions worthy of consideration about the impact of the electoral system on political participation and in the stability of institutions.
The shift from the philosophy of the electoral system from a mixed to a single system in response to widespread pressures, was a burden on election management and contributed to narrowing the scope of representation in elected institutions, as well as weakening the chances of forming an effective party system.
He concluded that the limited ability of the electoral system to express the voters’ attitudes and the weak understanding of the political elite resulted in the survival of a critical bloc outside the legislative bodies and gave credence to calls for a change in the course of transition.
This dragged the country into a civil war and multiplied foreign influence.
Discussing the role of political parties in Libya after the 2011 revolution, Ali Salem suggested that party life in Libya, despite its short duration, highlights many of the obstacles to the revolution.
The researcher proposed an antidote to the constitutional frameworks and presented a map of political parties and entities, starting with the election of the first elected legislative authority in July 2012 up until the Libyan Parliamentary elections that took place in June 2014.
He explained that these elections demonstrated the fact that the parties, as effective forces within the new partisan life, helped stall the democratic transition path as the country slid into the midst of civil war.
Abdelhamid Siyam reviewed international mediation efforts in the Libyan conflict, indicating that the conflict reflects the limits UN mediation, and touched on the reasons behind the success or failure of mediation.
The UN sent six special envoys and established a support mission in the Libyan territories, with the aim of supporting the Libyan forces in the post-Gaddafi transitional period.
Siyam also explained that the inability to stabilise Libya and the dwindling efforts to push the transition towards democracy, posed many questions, including about aspects of the conflict that hindered the UN progress, and whether the characteristics of the mediation method hindered progress.
He questioned the role of regional and international powers in obstructing the efforts of the six special envoys to mediate between the parties.
He also touched on Skhirat agreement and the subsequent stumbling blocks, and the disruption of the inter-Libyan dialogue, which brought the country back to of military confrontation, and the feasibility of resolving the conflict by armed force.