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Libya - Politics

Libya descended into chaos in 2011 following the ouster and killing of former leader Muammar Gaddafi by NATO backed forces. Gaddafi’s death created a power vacuum in the oil-rich country, with different factions of militant groups sprouting to fill that void. Two main groups rose to rule different parts of the country, one based in Tobruk while the other gained control of Tripoli. "Libya" was never much of a real country, and had long consisted of two such polities, in the east and west of the territory briefly united into one "country".

In September 2017, UN envoy Ghassan Salame submitted an action plan to stabilise Libya centred on holding legislative and presidential elections in 2018. In January 2018 the United Nations endorsed a plan to have Libya hold its elections before the end of 2018. On 11 January 2018 the UN political chief pushed for the country to hold credible elections this year in a bid to ensure a peaceful shift from a failed unity deal. "The goal is a Libyan goal to end the transition phase with inclusive peaceful process that produces a unified government that is a product of the will of the Libyan people," Jeffrey Feltman said after meeting internationally backed premier Fayez al Sarraj.

The progress made in registering voters was a fundamental step forward to make it possible to hold the elections scheduled for later in 2018. UN envoy Ghassan Salame said 08 February 2018 he hoped for elections in Libya by the end of 2018 but that conditions in the strife-torn country were not yet ready for polling. Libya’s Supreme Court on 14 February 2018 blocked legal challenges from lower courts to a draft constitution, paving the way for a referendum on the document which is hoped will ultimately lead to an election. Establishing a constitutional framework was widely regarded as a key step towards the stabilization of the North African country which has endured 8 years of conflict.

Members of a Constitutional Drafting Assembly (CDA) voted in the summer of 2017 in favor of a draft constitution, but an administrative court in the eastern city of Bayda had ruled that the vote was invalid. The supreme court effectively quashed the Bayda decision by declaring that administrative courts do not have the jurisdiction to rule on matters relating to the CDA. The draft constitution could still face hurdles, including challenges in the supreme court, turnout or approval requirements. Some of Libya’s minorities have also said they were excluded from a lengthy and sometimes acrimonious drafting process.

“Presidential and parliamentary elections will be organized in March 2018,” Government of National Accord [GNA\] head Fayez al-Sarraj said in a speech broadcast on television on 29 July 2017. He said the polls aimed to elect a new president and parliament whose mandate will be of “three years maximum or until the drafting and organization of a referendum for a constitution”.

He outlined a nine-point roadmap which he said would help shake off years of security problems, division and economic woes, and was aimed at relaunching the Libya Political Agreement. The UN-backed LPA agreed in 2015 by rival Libyan groups paved the way for the creation of the GNA. Sarraj said the GNA would remain as a caretaker government until after the elections.

The Government of National Accord had been struggling to assert its authority since it began work in Tripoli in March 2016, with a rival administration based in the remote east refusing to recognize it.

Libya had two rival administrations since mid-2014 when a militia alliance overran the capital, setting up its own authority and forcing the internationally recognised parliament to flee to the country's remote east. A third government, the UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNA), was established in December 2015.

There were 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.

Government of National Unity (GNA)

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.

On 30 March 2016 members of Libya's UN-backed Presidential Council reached Tripoli by ship on Wednesday, defying attempts to keep them out of the city and prevent them from installing a unity government. Seven members of the Council including Fayez Seraj, its head and the new government's prime minister, arrived from Tunisia at Tripoli's Abusita naval base amid tight security.

The Libyan faction in control of Tripoli demandedy that the head of a UN-backed unity government leave the capital, just hours after he arrived amid international calls for Libya's rivals to unite behind his administration. In a televised address the head of the Tripoli authorities, which are not recognised by the international community, said Fayez al-Seraj's Government of National Unity (GNA) was "illegal", asking him to leave the capital or to "hand himself in".

The GNA had called for an immediate transfer of power to the unity government, though both the Tripoli and eastern-based governments oppose this. The unity government's 18 members have so far failed to secure a vote of approval from Libya's eastern, internationally-recognised parliament, as required under the UN-mediated deal, and Fathi al-Mrimi, a spokesman for the eastern parliament's president, said its arrival was "premature".

But on 05 April 2016 Libya’s self-declared National Salvation Government based in Tripoli said that it will resign. The statement came just a week after the UN-brokered national unity government set up shop in Libya’s capital. The National Salvation Government released a statement saying that it would “cease duties.”

“We put the interests of the nation above anything else, and stress that the bloodshed stop and the nation be saved from division and fragmentation.” Created as a result of a deal brokered by the UN in December to unite the country’s divided leadership, the so-called Government of National Accord (GNA) was tasked with establishing authority over Libya in the wake of years of chaos triggered by the fall of autocrat Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The leaders of the other rival government, the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk, began making conciliatory statements.

But on 06 April 2016 the odds of a unity government taking hold in Libya got smaller when the rival Tripoli-based administration backed down from its promise to give up power. The National Salvation Government ordered security forces to stay on the job and continue protecting the administration. It also said it would hold the new unity government responsible for any violations of its security.

Under the UN deal, the presidential council was meant to lead a unified government. The HoR will be the main legislature, while a State Council made up mainly of GNC members would be a second, consultative chamber. Elections are supposed to be held within six months.

Opponents of Libya's UN-backed government voted on 22 august 2016 against a motion of confidence in the Tripoli-based administration, in a rare session of the parliament based in the east of the country. The vote is a fresh blow for the Government of National Accord (GNA), which has been seeking the parliament's endorsement for months as it tries to extend its influence and authority beyond its base in the capital. The vote was the first since January, when the parliament rejected an initial list of ministers put forward by the GNA's leadership, and the first since the GNA began installing itself in Tripoli in March. A total of 101 deputies had attended Monday's session, with 61 voting against the GNA, 39 abstaining, and just one voting in favor.

Libyan General Khalifa] Haftar, the commander of the army for the government in Tobruk, remained one of the most divisive figures in post-revolutionary Libya. Haftar gained support from some Libyans tired of their country's disorder, but had also drawn criticism over air strikes and attacks on civilian airports and sea ports. The Tobruk government seemed unlikely to agree to the GNA absent a clear role for Haftar in the new arrangement.

By 15 October 2016 rival militia groups were engaged in a struggle between the UN-backed "national unity" government of Fayez al-Sarraj and the unrecognized, Islamist-supported government of former PM Khalifa Ghweil. The "unity" government held one of the seats of power at the Rixos Hotel, which the country's former legislative body, the General National Council, also considered to be its headquarters. Militia forces loyal to Ghweil, who called themselves the Presidential Guard, seized other government buildings. Libyan TV broadcast a statement by members of the guard, saying they support Ghweil and the GNC and asserting the unity government is an attempt to place Libya under a new military dictatorship. Ghweil, supported by the hardline Islamist mufti of Tripoli, seized control of the old governmental palace, called the "guest palace," and several other government ministries, but insisted that "he did not want to spill any Libyan blood."

Ghweil argued the Sarraj "unity" government was a failure, and his actions were necessary to reassert control in order to keep the country financially stable. Presidential Guard militiamen who seized government buildings in Ghweil's name had reportedly not been paid in six months. Ghweil claimed that he had contacted rival Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni in Tobruk [yet a third "government"] in order to form a new government "together". Abdullah Al-Thinni, the Beida-based prime minister backed by the House of Representatives (HoR), effectively rejected calls from Tripoli coup leader Khalifa Ghwell to form a joint government. Outwardly appearing to look favourably on the call, he nonetheless said that Ghwell had to accept the House of Representatives as Libya’s sole legitimate legislature.

The UN-backed government seized a building used by parliament in Tripoli, proclaiming its own authority and demanding a new government in cooperation with the temporary government led by Abdullah al-Thani. The US State department expressed its great concern about the developments in Libya, saying: “We are in true support for the UN-brokered Government of National Accord, which is the legitimate choice of the Libyans and Libyan political parties.”

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Page last modified: 24-06-2021 17:48:02 ZULU