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Libya - Politics

There are over 1,700 para-military groups and small fringe militia groups in Libya by one estimate. Some are Islamist, some are non-Islamist, but they all fight each other. The only thing which united them and that united them was the opposition against Gadhafi. Now they are really looking for a cause, and the cause really is to gain power and to obtain as much economic loot as they can.

Libya is caught up in chaos with its Congress deadlocked between Islamists and a leading nationalist party, with infighting between the National Forces Alliance party, and the Islamist Justice and Construction party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya. The National Forces Alliance (NFA) was formed in 2012 by liberal war-time leader Mahmoud Jibril. The nascent army is struggling to assert itself against unruly former rebels, tribal groups and Islamist militants.

Libya's tribes and regions remain highly polarized following the 2011 civil war that ended the four-decade rule of Moammar Gadhafi. Residents of Zawiya and other regions battered by Gadhafi's attacks during the conflict demanded high-level positions in Libya's post-war government, leading to friction among rival communities.

The challenges facing Libya are further compounded by the 42-year legacy of dysfunctional State institutions, which were purposely undermined over decades of authoritarian rule. Tribal and regional tensions, the absence of political norms and the suppression of independent elites and civil society also resulted in insufficient capacity to foster the type of far-reaching changes that are required.

There is a regional dimension to the significant political changes in Libya. Developments, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia, have had a palpable effect on the political scene and greatly influenced the behaviour of some political forces. These events have injected a sense of unease into the political system as different political actors reassessed their positions regarding the major problems confronting Libya and the region more generally.

By early 2014 deteriorating security and rising political polarization in Libya left some analysts worrying that Libya may be on the verge of breakdown. The sense of pending crisis only worsened when more than a third of Libya’s fractious parliamentarians tabled a motion of no confidence in the country’s beleaguered Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. The move against Zeidan, a former human rights lawyer, came just days after Libya’s General National Congress (GNC) voted on 23 December 2013 to extend its own mandate for another 12 months, which sparked anger among democracy activists, who argued the extension was not legitimate and sets a dangerous precedent. Previous efforts to bring down the government faltered because the 200-strong the Islamist-dominated General National Congress failed to secure sufficient numbers to meet the 120-member quorum required for approving the motion.

The Islamists argued the time had come for a new government and have now been joined by centrists, led by Mahmoud Jibril, calling for a national salvation administration as a possible way to break a political impasse that has added to Libya’s dangerous drift and lawlessness. Jibril served as an interim Prime Minister for the rebels for seven and a half months during the uprising that toppled Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Zeidan’s authority had been weakened in large part by his failure to engineer an end to a months-long blockade by militias of vital eastern oil terminals. The blockade stifled oil production, the main source of government revenue, which has fallen to ten percent of capacity. On 01 January 2014, labor minister Mohamed Swalin told a news conference that the blockade was undermining Libya’s ability to pay public salaries. He warned the strikes were leading Libya into a “dark tunnel.” Blockade leader Ibrahim al-Jathran, who once oversaw the Petroleum Facilities Guard assigned to defend the facilities his supporters now control, refused to reopen the key oil-exporting ports until the Tripoli government recognizes eastern Libya, known by federalists as Cyrenaica, as a semi-autonomous region.

Libya’s most prominent factions agreed to hold early elections, according to the spokesman for Libya’s interim parliament, Omar Humeidan, who stated that the decision was made on 16 February 2014 in a parliamentary session. A law to oversee the new elections was expected to be presented in March 2014. The country had seen an outburst of protest since the government’s choice to extend its mandate since the expiration of its term on 07 February 2014.

Libya's parliament voted March 12, 2014 to remove the country's prime minister after a tanker loaded with crude oil from a rebel-held port escaped the navy and made it to international waters. The episode was the final straw for Ali Zeidan, who faced criticism from the country's Islamist politicians and a public that blamed him for failing to rein in eastern militias following the 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. A spokesman for Libya's General Assembly said the no-confidence measure was approved by 124 of the 194 members of parliament. "The General National Assembly has decided to dismiss Mr. Ali Zeidan from his post as prime minister, and instate the Minister of Defense, Abdullah al-Thinni, in his place until a new prime minister is elected," said Omar Hmeidan, speaker of the assembly. Zeidan left the country last week after Parliament voted him out of office.

Libya's interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, who had held the post for less than three weeks, excused himself from forming a new government, after he and his family came under attack at their home on 12 April 2014. Thani announced the next day that he was effectively giving up his post, adding an extra level of uncertainty to an already unsettled political situation. Thani said that he would not head the next Cabinet, but would stay on in a caretaker capacity until the new government is in place.

Gunmen stormed Libya's parliament 29 April 2014, firing shots, and causing lawmakers to suspend a vote for the country's new prime minister. Libyan officials said the armed men broke into the building housing Libya's General National Congress in Tripoli and fired shots in the air. Parliamentary spokesman Omar Hmeidan said the gunmen were linked to one of the defeated candidates for prime minister. The interrupted second round of voting was between two candidates: businessman Ahmed Matiq and Omar al-Hassi, a political science professor.

Forty-two-year-old businessman Ahmed Matiq was sworn in as prime minister 03 May 2014 after a chaotic session of the General National Congress. Initially Matiq secured the support of only 113 lawmakers, short of the 120 votes necessary for him to win. Reports said a second vote was held giving him the support of eight more lawmakers and beating his challenger, Omar al-Hassi. But the outgoing Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni refused to relinquish power, claiming irregularities in the appointment of his successor.

Libya's electoral commission announced 20 May 2014 that it would hold national parliamentary elections on June 25. Maitiq, backed by the Central Shield militia from his hometown of Misrata, reportedly occupied the prime minister's residence 03 June 2014, amid opposition from other groups. Both the militia and Maitiq reportedly belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, which opponents claimed was trying to seize power in Libya.

Libya's Supreme Court said 05 June 2014 that one of the country's two rival prime ministers, Ahmed Maitiq, was named "illegally," due to the absence of a quorum during the vote. In the country without a permanent constitution and a disputed parliament, the decision appeared to leave caretaker Prime Minister Abdallah Thani in charge. Thani and his acting government left the capital for the town of Bayda, in the east of the country, due to threats from militia groups which support Maitiq. Thani told journalists that a final court ruling on who is prime minister would take place on June 9.

Libyans headed to the polls 25 June 2014 for their second parliamentary elections since the 2011 toppling of leader Moammar Gadhafi. More than 1,600 candidates were running for the 200 seats in the new body, with 32 of the seats designated for women. The lawmakers would replace a parliament that was elected in 2012 and that many blame for the lingering instability that included a dispute over selecting a prime minister. Few Libyans were expected to participate in the vote for a new parliament. Some 1.5 million people, only a quarter of the population, was registered to take part, and the fear of violence may keep many of those away from the polls. Those in the eastern part of the country would face difficulty accessing polls because of lingering violence in the region.

The 25 June 2014 election replaced the General National Congress (GNC) with the Council of Representatives. Political entities did not submit lists in this election as opposed to GNC elections, where lists were elected under a proportional representation (PR) system.Candidates in this election ran as individuals. Fewer than half of registered Libyans voted, reflecting disillusionment with the chaos prevailing since Gaddafi's overthrow. Elections were held for only 188 of the 200 since in 12 districts there was a boycott or lack of security prevented an election.

On 22 July 2014 Libya’s electoral committee announced results of the parliamentary election. Liberals were expected to fill most seats in the new parliament, unlike the former assembly, which was dominated by Islamists. The moderate National Forces Alliance of wartime prime minister Mahmoud Jibril scored a landslide victory over rival Islamist parties. This was among the 80 seats that were assigned to party lists. There were 120 seats in which individuals ran as independents and hence no judgment could be made about their party affiliation. The final make-up of the 200-seat House of Representatives would only be known after the formation of political blocs.

Libya's newly-elected parliament held its first meeting 02 august 2014 in the eastern city of Tobruk, as fighting raged between armed factions in Benghazi and the capital, Tripoli. More than 150 members of parliament gathered under tight security for the meeting, which was headed by interim speaker Abu Bakr Baiera. The lawmakers who did not show included Islamists — a possible sign of continuing political divisions.

Libya's outgoing parliament, the General National Congress (GNC), appointed a new prime minister 25 August 2014 in a move set to deepen the country's political split as warring factions vie for control of the country. The GNC reconvened unilaterallyy in Tripoli and elected Islamist-backed Omar al-Hassi as prime minister. The GNC said it replaced the House of Representatives (HoR), and tasked al-Hassi, a lecturer in political science at the University of Benghazi, with forming a "salvation government". Local TV station, Alharar, said 94 politicians attended, meeting the minimum requirement for quorum. The move was widely expected to fragment the country further, leaving it with two rival parliaments and governments.

Libya's prime minister and his cabinet resigned 29 August 2014 to make way for a new government based on parliamentary elections held in June, a government statement said. Abdullah al-Thinni's cabinet said on Thursday that it had resigned according to Libya's constitutional rules to allow the new House of Representatives to form a government based on all parts of society. Libya's elected parliament, the House of Representatives, asked Abdullah al-Thinni on 01 September 2014 to form a new government for the oil-producing country.

The new interim Libyan government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani was sworn in by the Libyan parliament September 28, 2014 in the eastern city of Tobruk. The Islamist militia coalition that controls the capital Tripoli refused to recognize al-Thani and supports its own government. The Islamist Fajr militia coalition, which controlled the capital Tripoli, said it supported its own government which had yet to be officially sworn in.

Libya's Supreme Court ruled November 06, 2014 that the country's internationally recognized parliament is invalid, adding to an already tumultuous political scene in the deeply fractured North African state. Islamist lawmakers questioned the House of Representative's constitutionality because the legislative body operates from the eastern city of Tobruk and not from the capital Tripoli or the second city, Benghazi.

On 10 June 2015 the United Nations and major world powers urged rival factions in Libya to accept a power-sharing agreement and put an end to nearly four years of fighting, terrorism and political turmoil. UN diplomats and other top officials meeting in Berlin issued a joint statement saying an inclusive political settlement was the only lasting solution to Libya's problems. They urged all Libyans to remove the remaining obstacles to a deal.

Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said 01 July 2015 that he was willing to sign a power-sharing deal with Islamists who have set up a rival government in Tripoli. Thinni said during a visit to Malta that the "wise and kind people of Libya" wanted a solution to the country's long-running political chaos and uncertainty. Some parties to the conflict initialed a peace agreement on July 11.

After many months of complex and difficult negotiations, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Bernardino León, said in August 2015 that it might be possible to hammer out a final agreement on a unity government for conflict-ridden Libya by early September.

On October 09, 2015 the UN envoy for Libya announced the proposal of a new unity government for the divided nation in what could be a key step toward ending four years of chaos and political turmoil. Under the plan, a member of the Tripoli-based parliament, Fayez Sarraj, was named prime minister. He would have three deputies. Six ministers would make up a presidential council.

On October 19, 2015 Libya's internationally-recognized parliament rejected the UN proposal for a unity government with Islamists. The exact reason for the decision is unclear, but one report said the lawmakers were upset by amendments to the deal added by the Islamists without their approval.

On 06 December 2015 the two rival governing bodies in Libya have announced they had reached an agreement aimed at ending the power standoff which followed Moammar Gadhafi's overthrow. The plan would need approval by both parliaments. The draft was an alternative to the agreement which the UN has been leading mediation on for the past year. However, both plans have the broad intention for the country to be controlled by a national unity government.

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