There has been renewed talk in recent days about the possibility of forming a new government in Libya, especially after the so-called Joint 6+6 Committee between the House of Representatives and the High Council of State (or 6+6 HoR-HCS) reached an agreement on some electoral laws, including provisions for forming a new government before holding elections. Additionally, the announcement made by the Haftar, voicing support for the efforts, adds to this discussion.
A New Government in the Making
Local reports have revealed that intense consultations are underway between Libyan parties to form a new government that would replace the outgoing Government of National Unity led by Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. This can be summarized as follows:
1- Haftar’s support for the new government:
Khalifa Haftar, has voiced its support for the outcome of the Joint 6+6 Committee, including a proposal to form a new government to be tasked with preparing for the upcoming elections. The proposal was rejected by Dbeibah.
This announcement came following a meeting between Haftar and Speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, at the headquarters of the Libyan National Army in al-Rajma City, east of Benghazi. The meeting was held to settle the current disputes between the two figures, especially after Egypt stepped in to mediate a solution to their disagreements.
The consultations in al-Rajma also witnessed an attempt to reach understandings between Haftar and Saleh regarding the draft laws that emerged from the “6+6” committee’s work.
The parties discussed whether the parliament would move towards approving these laws, thus following suit of the High Council of State, or whether new consultations would have to be made to amend some provisions, especially those related to the eligibility criteria for the upcoming presidential elections.
2- Naming candidates for Prime Minister:
Over the past few days, several figures were nominated for the position of head of the new government. On June 18, 2023, some members of the Libyan State Council announced their support for the candidacy of former presidential candidate Mohamed al-Mazoughi for the new post.
Additionally, Abdulhakim Baiou, a former presidential candidate from the city of Misrata, received support for his bid for premiership from some members of the House of Representatives, the High Council of State as well as parties from the eastern and western regions of Libya.
3- Movements of the Parliament and the High Council of State:
Both bodies are already engaged in efforts to form a new government. This was evidenced by the inclusion of a provision in the electoral law drafted by the “6+6” Committee.
The new provision mandates the formation of this government before holding the elections, thereby giving the step legislative power. Members of the High Council of State have already proposed candidates for the post of prime minister.
Despite the parliament’s reservations about some provisions of the laws drafted by the “6+6 Committee” in Bouznika, Morocco, Saleh confirmed that consultations were underway with the High Council of State to form a new interim government in the coming period.
The current movement reflects a shift in the alliances previously established between Debaiba and Haftar. This can be presented as follows:
1- Haftar turning against the alliance with Debaiba:
After understandings were reached between Haftar and Debaiba, the commander of the LNA, in a recent statement, expressed support for the proposal of the “6+6” Committee to form a new government. Haftar’s statement revealed a failure of his agreement with Debaiba. Moreover, it may indicate Haftar’s attempt to pressure Debaiba into making further concessions in the event of a cabinet reshuffle. Although that seems to be a more plausible explanation,
Haftar’s statement could also indicate an attempt by Libyan parties to deliberately create obstacles that would lead to the election being postponed.
2- Dbeibah threatening to hold parliamentary elections:
On June 17, 2023, Dbeibah announced that holding parliamentary elections is currently a priority and should pave the way for presidential elections. Dbeibah’s statements came after Haftar welcomed calls for forming a new government, which is another indication that previous understandings and agreements between the prime minister and the military commander have crumbled.
Moreover, Dbeibah sought to hinder efforts to form a new government. He held a meeting on June 18, 2023 with the head of the High Council of State, Khalid al-Mishri، to sway him into supporting his bid and undermine understandings between the House of Representatives and the High Council of State over the formation of a new government.
3- Looking for a replacement to Debeibah:
Over the past weeks, several figures were proposed in the cities of Misrata and Zawiya as successors to Debaibah.
Khalifa al-Ghweil, former head of the National Salvation Government, seeks to garner support from Misrata to form a new government in the country.
Another figure working towards the same goal is Ali Sassi, the former CEO of the General Electricity Company of Libya who has close ties with businessmen in Misrata, especially Mohammed Tahir Issa, who has a strong network of connections in both eastern and western Libya, including Saddek Omar el-Kaber, Governor of the Central Bank of Libya, and Saddam Haftar, son of the the commander of the LNA.
Additionally, similar moves were made within Misrata by Mohammed Abdul Latif al-Muntasir, a cousin of Omar al-Muntasir, former Prime Minister during the Gaddafi era to form a coalition to support his bid for prime minister.
Similarly in Zawiya, prominent figures presented themselves as potential successors to Dbeibah.
Ali Bouzriba, who enjoys significant financial influence and a wide network of connections in western Libya. He is the brother of Asim Bouzriba, Minister of Interior in the Tobruk-based government appointed by the Parliament.
It should be noted that drone airstrikes conducted by the Debeibah government forces against Zawiya have fueled growing resentment, which Bouzriba seeks to leverage in support of his efforts to find a replacement to Dbeibah.
4- Securing support from western Libya factions:
Forming a new government requires the support of armed groups which are operating in western Libya and are still loyal to Dbeibah.
Al-Mishri held meetings with leaders of the armed groups to rally their support for forming a new government. In doing so, he aimed to exploit divisions within this bloc that were triggered by Dbeiba’s establishment of a new security apparatus called the “The National Agency of Backup Forces.” The move sparked anger among some armed groups in western Libya.
5- Unwavering western and international support for Dbeibadh:
United Nations envoy to Libya Abdoulaye Bathily seems to be holding on to the Dbeibah government. This was evidenced in Bathily’s briefing to the United Nations Security Council on June 19, 2023, in which he emphasized that the outcomes of the “6+6” committee regarding electoral laws seem insufficient to complete the electoral process. He acknowledged that they represent an additional step that can be built upon, but then pointed out four main challenges regarding the committee’s outcomes.
These challenges include ongoing disputes over the conditions for presidential candidacy, the provision that insists on holding the presidential elections in two rounds even if a candidate secures a majority in the first round, the clause stipulating the cancellation of parliamentary election results in case of a failure in the presidential elections, as well as insistence on forming a new government ahead of the elections.
Based on that, Bathily believes that it is difficult to conduct the elections based on the laws enacted by the “6+6” committee.
He called on the international community to exert pressure on Libyan factions to hold elections. His call can be seen as an invitation to the world powers to pressure the House of Representatives and the High Council of State, and to reject the idea of forming a new government. This prompted Saleh to criticize Bathily and even accuse him of attempting to impose his will on the Libyan people.
Similarly, European powers and the United States appear to be more inclined to support the continuation of the Dbeibah government in power while also working on integrating the eastern-based government, appointed by the parliament, into the Dbeibah government to form a unified government that would prepare for the upcoming elections.
However, the Western stance is perhaps showing openness to the idea of forming a new government if the forces in eastern and western Libya succeed in reaching an agreement on naming a successor to Dbeibah.
Paths of the Libyan Crisis
The overall actions reveal potential implications on the Libyan scene, which can be summarized as follows:
1- Freezing Bathily’s initiative:
Bathily’s June 19, 2023 briefing before the United Nations Security Council was preceded only by an earlier one in mid-April. Back then, he announced the outlines of a new initiative to resolve the Libyan crisis and prepare for elections. He asked the House of Representatives and the High Council of State to finalize the electoral laws by mid-June 2023. He further warned that if both councils fail to accomplish this, he would form a high-level steering committee.
Bathily’s most recent briefing before the Security Council did not include an announcement regarding the formation of such a committee, which may be related to the support of some regional powers for the efforts of the House of Representatives and the State Council in finalizing the electoral laws. Additionally, Haftar’s unexpected announcement of support for the formation of a new government has disrupted Bathily’s calculations.
2- Postponement of the elections:
The chances of holding parliamentary and presidential elections within this year are diminishing, which may push influential Libyan factions to focus on forming a unified government. The dynamic contributing to this is the reduced ability of the United States to exert pressure on Libyan parties to expedite the elections.
3- Reaching comprehensive agreements:
The Dbeibah government may succeed in restoring its previous understandings with Haftar, involving the heads of the House of Representatives and the State Council in these understandings, and subsequently forming a new government to be led Dbeibah, based on consensus among the former parties in a way that ensures their active participation.
Although such a scenario is likely to be hard to happen, it cannot be entirely ruled out given the rapid changes in alliances among Libyan factions.
Since 2011, Libya has been witnessing a continuous process of dismantling and reassembling alliances and existing balances, as well as working towards periodic replacement of competing governments.
Therefore, despite the external and, to a lesser extent, internal support for the Dbeibah government, there are still chances of the current Libyan parties succeeding in forming an alternative government to replace the Dbeibah government, despite the obstacles that may be encountered.
Source: FUTURE For Advanced Research & Studies