Jonathan M. Winer – Non-Resident Scholar

Since the late December collapse of the promised Dec. 24, 2021 elections in Libya, the recently-appointed special advisor to the U.N. secretary-general, Stephanie Williams, has undertaken the mission of finding a path forward to restart and fulfill the process of electing a Libyan president and parliament by June.

Williams has undertaken a flurry of January meetings with foreign actors, traveling to Cairo and Ankara to meet with Egyptian and Turkish leaders, and is on her way to do the same in Russia. These followed her late December efforts to corral Libya’s own power-brokers, including Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, warlord Khalifa Hifter, and former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, into supporting the election process regardless of what happened next.

Meanwhile, the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) and the Tripoli-based High State Council (HSC) have continued their efforts, originally announced on Jan. 2, to create a new election roadmap of their own based on consultations with other Libyan bodies. Success in this would constitute a true Libyan-led process, initiated and chaired by Libyans, rather than by the U.N. But based on past performance, there are substantial grounds for skepticism that the dinosaurs actually want to see free and fair elections that could lead to their own extinction.

These include the head of Libya’s HoR, Aguila Saleh Issa, who on Jan. 17 again took up his position of speaker, from which he had resigned to run for president. On doing so, he immediately convened the HoR to announce that the Dbeibah government’s mandate had expired, and called on the Central Bank of Libya to halt all government spending until such time (if any) as it was approved by the Finance Committee of the HoR. Such chaos-inducing behavior was a major factor ensuring the ineffectiveness of the prior U.N.-facilitated Government of National Accord that was succeeded by Dbeibah last year.

For his part, the patronage-savvy Dbeibah, selected through the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) process shepherded by Williams last year, maintains good reason not to fall in line with the HoR-HSC initiative aimed at depriving him of his position. Dbeibah might be happier to see the LPDF reconvene and, as the 75-person body that elected him, either develop rules enabling him to run for president and win, or at the least, create a process that competes with the HoR-HSC one so that nothing happens.

A minimum pre-requisite for any election process, “Libyan-led” or otherwise, to succeed, is to have the internationals align. Currently, Egypt, Russia, and Turkey face major issues with greater political salience to their domestic constituencies than the future of Libya. The desire of international actors to see Libya no longer create unpredictable political and security risks for others may be the one factor most likely to help Williams secure some form of success in 2022.


Source: 2022 trends and drivers to watch in the Middle East


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