Diplomats from France, Germany, Italy, UK, US to meet on Friday to discuss next steps. Ex-UN envoy: ‘A transactional ruling class uses Libya’s state and sovereign institutions as cash cows’.
Western leaders are growing increasingly impatient with Libyan politicians who, despite finding time to agree a 42 percent pay rise, have failed to finalize plans for national elections, The Guardian reported on Thursday.
Special envoys from France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US are due to meet in Washington on Friday to discuss next steps after rival Libyan factions last week failed to reach a final agreement in Cairo on a constitutional basis for national elections.
One Western diplomat told The Guardian: “They are some making sincere efforts at mediation. But the abiding character of too many Libyan politicians on both sides of the divide is (to) pay lip service to the necessity of elections and then do everything possible to throttle them so they can continue lining their pockets.
“We may have to stop hoping we can persuade these people to agree to elections and instead find a way to work around them.”
Friday’s meeting, convened by US Special Envoy Richard Norland, will look at how to hold elections and whether a deadline for establishing a national Libyan body to agree on them is necessary.
Unelected interim governments have run the country for nearly a decade now, with efforts to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018 and 2021 aborted, while last year’s elections were canceled due to disputes over the qualifications of candidates to stand.
Commentators said this disguised a deeper reluctance from interim politicians to risk a winner-takes-all process that would strip them of state patronage and power.
Stephanie Williams, former UN special adviser on Libya, said: “A transactional ruling class, some of whose network can be traced back to the days of the former regime, uses Libya’s state and sovereign institutions as cash cows.
“It could be described as a ‘redistributive kleptocracy,’ bringing into their circles on a regular basis just enough of their compatriots to sustain the system.”
Libyan politicians’ salaries rose by 42 percent for 2022 despite estimates that half the population are in poverty.
Critics have said the scale of salaries and disbursements evidenced an unaccountable political class eager to avoid the verdict of the ballot box.
Tim Easton, Libya expert at international affairs think tank Chatham House, said: “The central bank figures are still opaque, but clearly spending on salaries is staggeringly high.
“Given the amount of money supposedly spent on public services, ordinary people are simply not receiving adequate level of service.”