Alwaght- Libya is a setting to a new political movement that is trying to save the political dialogue and break the impasse that has arisen in the political negotiations of the civil war-ravaged North African nation.
On Wednesday, the Constitutional Committee, comprised of the House of Representatives in eastern Libya and the Tripoli-based Supreme Council of Government, agreed to hold a constitutional referendum ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections on December 24. The decision came after a two-day meeting of the Constitutional Committee in the Egyptian city of Hurghada.
Also before that, on January 13 members of the Advisory Committee formed by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (PDF) to resolve disputes between the country's executive officials held three-day direct meetings in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the mechanism for selecting new Libyan political leaders during the transition period as one of the nodes of the previous negotiations. They informed the UN representative about the results of the agreements.
Commenting on the negotiations, the UN envoy said members of the two councils had agreed to resume talks in Egypt from February 9 to 11 and to invite the National High Electoral Commission to join the talks on how to conduct the referendum.
During the Libyan Political Dialogue held in November 2020 in the Tunisian capital, Tunisia, 75 representatives from the country’s social and political spectrum discussed a political roadmap for lasting peace in the war-torn country, and agreed to hold general elections on December 24 this year.
Another important outcome of the Tunisian summit was the agreement on the distribution of key posts in the transitional government until the elections are held and a legitimate government is formed. These key posts will be divided into three important and strategic areas in Libya among political figures, and this plan with their agreement is supposed to facilitate management of the executive affairs.
Meanwhile, the UN mission to hold the scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections on December 24 has run into challenges and time is running out fast, while the ongoing differences on the constitution and the vacuum of an executive body approved by all groups prevail.
In the current situation, the PDF has made various proposals regarding the process of electing the head of the Presidential Council, his two deputies, the prime minister, and his two deputies in order to end the deadlock hampering formation of the executive body.
According to these agreements, the list of candidates for executive positions should include 17 members and a coalition of political forces based on regional divisions— 8 from the west, 6 from the east, 3 from the south. A list will be approved as winner of the contest if gets 75 percent of the votes of the assembly. However, this rate dropped to 63 percent after it underwent a review. If none of these lists can reach the win threshold, two lists with the highest percentage will advance to the second round and the one that gets 50 percent + 1of votes will be the winner of the competition.
Two major coalitions are vying for the president and the prime minister posts. The first list is represented by Aguila Saleh Issa, the speaker of the House of Representatives of Tobruk in eastern Libya, and Fathi Bashagha, the minister of interior of the Government of National Unity (GNA) in the capital Tripoli, which includes old and prominent political figures.
The second coalition list also includes new names who did not hold political posts after the 2011 revolution, which toppled the dictator Muammar Gadhafi, and are backed by civil forces. The representatives of this coalition are Abdul Jawad al-Obeidi, based in the east, and Abul Amid al-Dabaiba, from the west.
The two coalition lists have two different views on how to elect the head of state and the head of the presidential council. Proponents of civil movement want these two significant posts elected by the assembly members, while Aguila-Bashaqa coalition insist that the elections be held at each region’s levels.
Neither won the required minimum number of votes, namely 63% of the votes, in the assembly. However.
As the Libyan political parties approach a general agreement, the names of several Libyan figures for key positions such as speaker of parliament have emerged. One of these names is Aguila Saleh whose term has ended. The other are Abdul Jawad al-Obeidi, an adviser to the head of the Court of Appeals, and Abdel Majid Saif al-Nasr, Libya's ambassador to Morocco, deputy defense minister at the GNA Omar Abu Sharida, and Salahuddin al-Namroush.
For the presidency of the transitional government or the interim government, Fathi Bashagha, an influential political figure in the Tripoli government and known for his closeness to Turkey, Ahmad Muaiteeq, Abdul Hamid Dabibeh, and Mohammad al-Muntaser have been nominated as the candidates.
The tough road to agreements
In the meantime, despite the considerable progress made in recent days, the country still has difficulty achieving a comprehensive government. The dangerous combination of conflicting economic interests, political differences and, of course, the intervention of international actors has obscured the prospect of achieving peace in this war-weary country.
First, it seems that Faiz Siraj, head of the GNA, seeks to retain the presidency of the Presidential Council, going against the agreements reached on returning the post of head of the Presidential Council to the eastern region and electing a figure from the western region for the post of prime minister. The council, consisting of nine members including five presidential aides and three ministers from different parts of Libya, is the most important decision-making body in Libya. According to the Skhirat agreement of 2016, the president heads the Presidential Council.
In a move that shows his seriousness in moving towards the formation of a national unity government along with retaining the presidency of the Presidential Council, Siraj formed a task force to undertake the liaison between the House of Representatives in Tobruk and Tripoli and the Presidential Council.
However, the formation of a national unity government can only take place with a green light of the foreign-backed General Khalifa Haftar, who controls the eastern and southern regions. And this will be a major challenge in implementing the agreements to form a government resulting from December 2021 elections.
Meanwhile, the issue of the continuation of the ceasefire is also shrouded in ambiguity. The situation in the region where the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Haftar and the GNA military forces separate between the provinces of Sirte and Jufra in centeral Libya could lead to new tensions due to force amassment and in case of a stalemate in the talks.
Last month, Haftar threatened that if the Turkish forces in their “declared war on the Libyan people” do not pull out and continue their presence in Libya, send weapons to the militants, and import foreign mercenaries to the battlegrounds, he would resume military actions to oust them. “As long as the Libyan forces and their mercenaries are present on the Libyan soil, independence means nothing and freedom, peace, and security are senseless,” he asserted.
Recently, the GNA accused Haftar-led forces of digging more trenches in the region and posted a video of the flight of three warplanes that it claimed belonged to Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary company allegedly involved in the Libyan war. It called the move a violation of the ceasefire agreement.
The differences between the influential foreign actors in the Libyan developments are another part of the challenges. In recent months, there have been reports that Russia is leaning to support Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and that Saif al-Islam is advancing his own political movement. Last week, the Russian foreign ministry announced that Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, had met and talked with representatives of the Saif al-Islam Gaddafi movement, including Meftah al-Warfali, and Omar Abu Ashrada.
This stage marks the start of a campaign for Saif al-Islam’s nomination for the presidency in December, especially since his representatives are attending the dialogue.
But another key issue that could lead to a doubled challenge in the future of peace talks is the geographical division of the political regions involved in the power transfer. The tribes in the southeast, which extend from the city of Ajdabiya in the east to Sirte in the west and the city of Kufra in the south, claim a fourth region called Burqa al-Baydha, along with three other regions of the Tripoli, Fezzan, and Barca.
All in all, given these challenges, any further delay in the success of political dialogue can bring tensions back to war-weary nation.