OpinionTop StoryWorld

With the Elections Delayed, What’s in Store for Libya in 2022


With the Elections Delayed, What’s in Store for Libya in 2022

As the new year is about to begin, Libya’s political situation is tense and suspenseful. To no expert’s surprise, numerous outstanding issues came to the fore this month. Consequently, the president of the parliamentary election committee, Hadi al-Sagheer, announced a delay in the first round of the presidential election only two days before the vote was to be held.

Many of the difficult issues stemmed from Libyans lacking any consensus toward election laws amid the absence of a constitutional framework. The top contenders—Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Khalifa Haftar, and Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh—were all divisive and controversial candidates whose candidacies led to many legal challenges. Also, sensitive questions about security and the presence of foreign militaries and mercenaries remained unresolved.

The High National Electoral Commission recently suggested rescheduling the election for January 24. But it is doubtful that such issues could be resolved within a few weeks.

Currently, Libya does not have a timeline for the transition’s next steps. There are valid concerns about various disputes in Libya heating up with militias making bold moves at the expense of Libya’s ability to unite and stabilize under one government.  

The North African country relapsing back into armed conflict is unfortunately a real risk. Ferhat Polat, a researcher at the TRT World Research Centre and expert on Libya, recently wrote that “this postponement is likely to worsen the political, security, and economic deterioration of the country as fears grow [that a] looming political vacuum could lead to renewed conflict and economic instability.”

Within Libya, there are two important trends to watch. These have to do with the House of Representatives (HoR) on one side, and the international community, represented by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), on the other. The HoR is currently attempting to reassert itself as Libya’s legitimate parliament with the authority to dictate the political process while the international community wants the roadmap restarted and the Government of National Unity (GNU) to maintain power during this period of uncertainty. This brings us to the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF)—a 75-member institution that came to be in January 2021 as a result of UN-backed efforts to resolve the Libyan conflict. This was the body that selected the GNU as well as the Presidential Council.

“As the HoR continues to act as a spoiler, constantly undermining the GNU and its leadership, the UN could try to resurrect the LPDF as a surrogate body to restart the political process and to fix Libya’s institutional breakdown, with the support of western governments,” Dr. Umberto Profazio, a Maghreb Analyst at the NATO Defense College Foundation, told Newslooks. “This could only increase the duality between the HoR and the LPDF, and as a consequence between the parliament and the UN mission, which could represent the precondition for the establishment of a breakaway government in eastern Libya.”

As Dr. Profazio warned, “the inability of the transitional authorities to launch a security sector reform and most importantly the lack of a comprehensive agreement on the way forward could increase the polarization in the coming months, deepening the divide between the east and the west of the country.”

Preventing a de facto partition of Libya requires establishing a constitutional framework that enables the country to overcome some difficult hurdles. These challenges pertain to hard questions about oil revenues, reunification of the military, and other delicate issues. Experts warn that too much attention is being paid to elections and their timetable while there needs to be more work done to enable the beleaguered country to tackle legal, economic, and security issues. These problems have left Libya in conditions which make it tough to imagine a national election that Libyans from all areas of the country agree is free and fair.

As we enter 2022, it will be important to monitor the external powers such as the Gulf states, Egypt, France, Turkey, and Russia. The regional trend in the Middle East toward de-escalation, rapprochements, and reconciliations bodes positively for Libya’s transition to democracy. A continuation of this trend could help the fractured country overcome its outstanding issues. However, if regional rivalries heat up again, such geopolitical tensions and disputes could have negative implications for Libya. This scenario would threaten to further undermine the country’s hopes for peace, stability, and democratization ten years after the destruction of Moammar Qaddafi’s government.

The West and the Wagner Group

At a time in which some important countries in the Middle East and North Africa are easing their friction and prioritizing economic, trade, and investment cooperation with each other over escalating their ideological tensions, the main rivalries impacting Libya might be along East-West lines, not ones within the Sunni Muslim world. Put simply, the US and Europe’s desires to counter the Wagner Group in Africa could have increasingly serious ramifications for Libya in 2022. Already the European Union has sanctioned the Russian mercenary force because of its activities in numerous African countries, including Libya, as well as Ukraine.

On December 24, the United States, France, United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy called for the UN-backed GNU to remain in power until the results of the postponed election are announced. These western powers are urging the Libyans to establish a new electoral timeline as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, shortly after the election’s delay, the Wagner Group’s founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said that the international community is Libya’s main enemy.

With thousands of its fighters still in Libya, the Wagner Group will, to some extent, be able to influence the trajectory of events in the North African country next year. Thus, in 2022, the US and some of its close NATO allies may pay more attention to the Wagner Group’s agenda in Libya where Russia seeks to counter western influence and expand Moscow’s geopolitical clout. 

More By Giorgio Cafiero

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Newslooks.com

Previous Article
Sandra Jaffe, co-founder of Preservation Hall, passes
Next Article
Clemson tops Iowa State in Cheez-It Bowl

How useful was this article?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this article.

Latest News