In the Chaos of Libya: Part 4 – The Political Scenario
The Political Scenario
by Giacomo Morabito, Mediterranean Affairs
The Libya which resulted from the 2011 war is still searching for a political equilibrium and is going through a phase of incertitude, instability which is not likely to end very soon. While in the rest of the country the clashes between the rival militias are ongoing, the city of Tobruk has been considered instead so safe to been chosen as the home city to the ‘Chamber of Representatives’.
This is a new parliamentary assembly which replaces the General National Congress (GNC), which has been established two years ago (9th August 2012) in substitution to the National Transitional Council.
The GNC, established during the Libyan revolution of 2011, counted 31 members. Its aim was mainly to pursue the revolutionary actions until the freed of the country and, afterwards, to organize free elections and redact a new constitution. The elections were held firstly on July 2012 when 200 members of the GNC were nominated. The latter had 100 members in Tripolitania, 60 in Cyrenaica, 40 in Fezzan. The GNC was meant to appoint the new government, as the former has been weakened by armed militias and various local radical groups.
According to the official data from the Libyan High National Elections Commission, the liberal party ‘alliance of national forces’, led by Mahmoud Jibril, conquered 48.1% of suffrages, gaining 39 seats, meanwhile the Islamic party construction and Justice gained 10.3%, which got 17 seats. After these, there were other parties, in particular, the national front, the Wadi al-Hiya alliance, the Union for the country and the National central party.
When the elections ended, the figure of Ali Zeidan emerged: opponent to the Qaddafi regime, Zeidan passed almost 30 years in exile in Switzerland and came back to Libya just in occasion of the 2011 revolution. Afterwards, he was appointed representative in Europe of the CNT, the Libyan ad interim government, and this fact convinced the French government to support the rebel forces. Although he lost the presidential elections in 2012 against Mohammed Magariaf, he was afterwards appointed as Prime Minister by the GNC due to the Mustafa Abushagur’s incapability of forming a new government.
One year later, he was kidnapped by some armed men, just a few days after the US Special Forces’ raid which ended with the capture of one of the most influent leaders of Al Qaeda, Abu Anas Al-Libi, being him considered the head behind the massacre of Nairobi and Dar es Salam in 1998.
The al-Zeidan’s government was overall weak, unable to impose a stood control on the territory and to bear the weight of the crisis in Cyrenaica, where the rebel forces have been occupying the main ports of oil exportation (which was blocked as a result).
His power lasted until, some moths afterwards, a north-Korean oil ship managed to ‘steal’ 200.000 barrels from the port of al-Sidra, in the Ras Lanuf area. The event put a shame on the country, according to the Libyan politicians. Therefore, on 11th March 2014, the GNC voted a motion of no-confidence against him, which was approved with a majority of 124 votes on 194.
He was then replaced by the Defense Ministry ad-interim, Abdullah al-Thani. However, the new government lasted only one month (Al-Thani resigned his dimissions on 13th April 2014) and the power was then given to Ahmed Omar Maitik. In the meanwhile, Khalifa Haftar, Lieutenant General the Libyan army, head of the Al-Saiqa brigade, launched the operation ‘dignity’ against the Islamist forces, particularly strong in Cyrenaica. Haftar tried to suspend the parliamentary works after an attack enacted by his soldiers and accused both al-Thani and Maitik of being too close to the Islamist forces. His appointment was made under controversial circumstances, finally solved by the Libyan Supreme Court. On July 2014, it declared the illegality of the Malik’s appointment and that Al-Thani was effectively the Prime Minister. After his resignations, Al-Thani’s power was restored and he led the country until the political elections of last June, 25th for the election of the 200 Members of the Representative chamber, with its headquarters in Benghazi.
For these elections, the seats were to be assigned according to the three following methods: 40 through a uninominal majoritarian system; 80 through the proportional; the last 80 representatives had to be elected on the basis of a single non-transferable vote in 29 multinomial constituencies. The candidates were 1714 and they concurred as individuals, not belonging to one particular list, as foreseen by the law. Moreover, 32 of the 200 seats were reserved to women.
The elections were meant to inaugurate a new phase of stability for Libya especially if we consider that, after the Qaddafi regime, the basis for the development of a national dialogue had been set, its necessity for the redaction of a new Constitution by the end of 2014 being neglected.
Overall, the affluence to the ballots was pretty low: according to the report from the Libyan High National Elections Commission, only 45% of the entitled Libyans voted. No votes were registered from Derna, where a number of terrorist attacks and homicides were realized by a group of local radical Islamists. Some polling stations were closed in Kufra and Sebha for security reasons. On the election day, there have been cases of violence, with at least 5 people dead and 30 injured during the clashes between the governmental forces and the rebel militias in Benghazi.
On 22nd July 2014, 188 seats were assigned meanwhile the remaining 12 were not given to anyone due to manifest irregularities in some circumscriptions ascertained by the Libyan High National Elections Commission. The distribution of parliamentary seats of the new assembly (25 deputies represented Fezzan, 60 the Cyrenaica and 103 Tripolitania) goes in favor to the moderate and liberal forces, which are willing to delete the dark parenthesis of the country’s government.
The Libyan Parliamentary assembly met for its first official session after the election of June and after the emergency reunion due to the alarming security situation in the country owing to the violence in Tripoli and Bengasi. After the first meeting, boycotted by the Islamists, the president of the House of Representatives was elected: it was Ageela Salah Issa Gwaider, lawyer and magistrate in Cyrenaica, who obtained 77 against the 74 of the other candidate, Abubakr Bahira.
The House of Representatives which replaces the GNC, was meant to meet in Bengasi, but the meeting has been moved to Tobruk for security reasons: the clashes in Benghazi and Tripoli between competing militias provoked 200 deaths, forcing many people to flee the country and many countries to withdraw their diplomatic delegations. Nonetheless, the whole international community hopes that the elections, together with the beginning of the work for the adoption of a new constitution, could underpin the process of democratization and national reconciliation.
The election of the Constituent Assembly on February 2014 could be seen as something positive on the pursuit of more stability. Its 60 members, meeting in must wait for the approval of the new Constitution and for the subsequent elections in order to gain a more stable environment for working in the long term.
There are few possibilities that this scenario may realize before the end of the year because of a debilitating environment surrounding the Libyan institutions, such as the regional pro-independence tendencies, which could even divide the country: for instance, the regions of Cyrenaica and Fezzan have already been declared independent from the respective local tribes. Moreover, the jihadist groups, reunited in the Shura council of the Benghazi revolutionaries, have recently proclaimed the Islamic emirate: among them there are also the Salafis of Ansar al-Sharia, who have been accused of the attack of 11th September 2012, when the US ambassador Chris Stevens died.
This situation represents another weakness of the Libyan authorities which are often forced to intervene to solve – in a short time – the problems of the post-war reconstruction era. The main goal is to reestablish the ‘State of Law’, in order to regain full control over the territory: therefore, it is necessary to dismantle the illegal and jihadist militias as those may menace the political stability, the citizens’ security and the economy.
According to the research centre ‘Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East’ of the US think tank ‘Atlantic Council’, the Libyan authorities must target these three main areas for the economic development of the country:
1) Diversify the economy through the expansion of the private sector, besides the oil business. This would imply the development of the services and tourism sector. However, if willing to make it happen, the juridical system must undergo some relevant changes too.
2) Reduce the unemployment of young people. This goal can be accomplished through the improvement of the education level and of the professional training system so that the young Libyans can satisfy the requests of the private sector. It will be necessary also to change the way that Libyans see the job system, as they believe that working in the public sector is ‘their right’.
3) Develop a modern financial system: it is a goal of masterpiece necessity for the private sector as it would allow the small and medium companies to receive the necessary credit for triggering their expansion and creating, therefore, new jobs. The reforms should also focus on the privatization of the banks, so that also foreign ones could have access to the system.