Representing the unity of the country, the new Libyan government is struggling to prepare for the December elections and to obtain the departure of foreign forces. As for Marshal Haftar, he has not said his last word.
The hope raised in February by the arrival of the new interim Government of National Unity (GNU) quickly fell in Libya. The prospect of the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for December is gradually fading. The GNU symbolizing the reunification of the country is confronted with the divisions still present between the various regional actors. The Prime Minister Misrati Abdulhamid al-Dabaiba seems to have little room for maneuver.
But for the former Minister of the Economy of Tripoli and current adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ali Al-Isawi, the observation of the government’s failure must be tempered. “He hasn’t done anything important so far because we’re not expecting too much,” he says. He is still restructuring ministries, government agencies, etc. It seems that the only goal for this period will be to deal with the electricity problem and the Covid-19 pandemic. “
Stakes already difficult to face, Abdulhamid al-Dabaiba finding himself administering the country without a budget. Representing 93 billion dinars, it is blocked at the level of the House of Representatives (HoR), in the East, chaired by Aguila Saleh. And he is also criticized by MPs supporting Khalifa Haftar, as the budget of his Libyan National Army (LNA) will be part of the GNU Defense Ministry’s portfolio.
Aguila Saleh interferes with the elections
For her part, Aguila Saleh is seeking to postpone the holding of the elections in order to maintain her position. ” It allowed the HoR to vote to endorse the GNU, but it is clear that it is again obstructing peace and transition efforts,” said Benjamin Fishman, a researcher at the Washington Institute and former director of North Africa at the American National Security Council. The international community must put pressure on him to take the necessary measures to allow the elections. “
However, if Aguila Saleh has been the subject of sanctions by the US Treasury since 2016, the European Union (EU) lifted in October 2020 those it imposed on him. The main person concerned had been classified four years earlier in the list of personalities obstructing the application of the Skhirat agreements, at the origin of the creation of the GNA of Fayez al-Sarraj. A researcher at the European Council on International Relations, Tarek Megerisi also sees Aguila Saleh’s postures as “an attempt to gain popularity in his constituencies, to taint the government as well as Dabaiba, and to block the electoral process so that it can stay in office as long as possible ”.
In this showdown against the GNU, Aguila Saleh wants to obtain the replacement, before the elections, of the representatives of seven sovereign institutions. “These political movements are all aimed at increasing its control and power,” Tarek Megerisi analyzes. It is in particular question of the replacement of the governor of the Libyan Central Bank (BCL), a position more than strategic insofar as it controls the funds and their redistribution.
Aguila Saleh thus went to Rabat on June 3 for a meeting to which the head of the High Council of State, Khaled al-Mishri was invited, in order to create a committee responsible for determining the future representatives of these institutions. An approach that Tarek Megerisi deplores: “The probability of the holding of the elections is all the lower as Salah and Mishri are authorized to continue their blocking tactics without a response from the international community”.
“However, given the international consensus behind the elections, it seems very likely that they will take place,” the researcher notes. The most important question remains whether they will be a constructive moment for Libya to emerge from its transition, or the spark of a new conflict. “
The outdated UN mission
The United Nations mission in Libya (Manul) is trying for its part to continue its roadmap for the elections. But the Libyan committee formed under his aegis, the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), is also shaken by internal disagreements. It is divided on the basis of the future Constitution drawn up for the next elections.
At issue: the choice of ballot (direct or indirect) and the possibility for a presidential candidate to have dual nationality. This second point would allow several personalities to present this: Khalifa Haftar, the current Libyan President Mohamed El Menfi, both American citizens, or Ali Aref Nayed, the Libyan ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, close to the camp of the Is and Canadian citizen.
“These questions are underlined by people already working for their candidate,” said Claudia Gazzini of the International Crisis Group. Researcher Benjamin Fishman fears that without a rapid resolution of these differences, the electoral calendar cannot be respected: “Instead of arbitrating disputes through more active mediation between the different voices of the LPDF, Manul has now handed the ball. in the HoR camp, which is a disappointing result ”.
European attempt in Berlin
Beyond these technical questions, the departure of foreign forces from Libyan soil constitutes the main challenge for the GNU. This withdrawal is demanded with increasing insistence by Washington and the EU. But both Ankara and Moscow are turning a deaf ear. In 2019, Turkey, Tripoli’s main ally, sent military support and Syrian mercenaries to Tripolitania to fight alongside ex-GNA forces against Khalifa Haftar’s offensive. Russia, for its part, relied on the paramilitary company Wagner to take a position alongside the marshal, also supported by Syrian mercenaries.
However, these forces ordered by the UN Security Council to leave the country in March are still present in Tripolitania, where the Turks have notably taken control of the Al-Watiya base, while Wagner’s men are stationed. in Jufra and in the Fezzan.
The implementation of the elections in December and the departure of foreign forces will be on the main menu of the next Libyan conference in Berlin. Organized on June 23 under the aegis of the United Nations, it aims to strengthen the commitment of the international community in the resolution of the conflict. But unlike Berlin I, this new conference will bring together foreign ministers instead of heads of state. The initiative is therefore less likely to bear fruit on the ground, where the allied forces of both camps are encamped in their positions.
“The inclusion of Libyan representatives shows that there has been progress since last year,” notes Tarek Megerisi, however. This conference will help put pressure on them to at least agree on a roadmap for moving forward ”. For her part, Claudia Gazzini believes that Berlin II is an opportunity for the international community to come together and put the United Nations, which has somewhat lost control in recent months, in the driver’s seat. “The United Nations should not leave the Libyan authorities to fend for themselves and imagine that things will resolve themselves naturally in Libya. A common agreement to move the process forward is necessary, ”says the researcher.
Haftar shows the muscles
The backbone of the maintenance of the cease-fire, the reunification of the army, moreover, remains at a standstill. If the joint committee, says 5 + 5, between the representatives of the West and the East continues its meetings on the ground, reconciliation is far from materializing. The high point of this division, the great military parade of the Libyan National Army (ANL) organized by Khalifa Haftar on May 29 in Benghazi. The parade, shunned by the representatives of the GNU, allowed the marshal to show himself in chief of an imposing and professional army. “He is now trying to pretend that he has more control over the East than he really has,” said Tarek Megerisi. The military parade is an expression of his insecurity. “
Haftar also supervised the graduation ceremony of an ANL promotion in Benghazi on June 5, in parallel with the graduation ceremony for soldiers from Misrata chaired by Abdulhamid al-Dabaiba and criticized by the pro ANL.
These demonstrations of force reflect the contradictions of the promised reunification. The marshal did not formally recognize the GNU and he could obstruct the elections. “Haftar is one of the time bombs in the process of ending the crisis,” judge Tarek Megerisi. He has made it clear, on several occasions that he has no interest in sharing power or accepting anything that is not a stepping stone to absolute power. “And Benjamin Fishman feared:” Because of his military resources and his strengths in the East, he can hinder the transition at any time. He can also easily prevent the vote from taking place in the East or resume the boycott of oil. ” The judgment of the oil production in the east has been frequently used by various actors in their arm wrestling with the authorities.
In Tripoli, Ali Al-Isawi is hardly optimistic about the future. “The specter of a new attack on Haftar is still present,” he explains. The real unification of the military institution is nothing but wishful thinking. “