Published On: Tue, Dec 15th, 2020

EYE ON LIBYA: No Consensus On Political Transition As Difficulties Loom

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By Janet Ekstract

ISTANBUL- Libyan parliament has not convened for two years and the likelihood of carving a path through the thorny political transition process remains at a stalemate. At the most recent session of the Libya Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) that met four days ago, via video conference, no agreement was able to be reached on the election mechanism of executive authority for the North African nation.

The LPDF, under the auspices of the United Nations Support Mission I,n Libya (UNSMIL) did agree to hold elections on December 24, 2021, but still aren’t in consensus on who will lead the political transition going forward. A major reason for the lack of consensus includes underrepresented groups questioning the legitimacy of the delegates. To that end, Libyan organizations are calling for an investigation into the allegation of corruption linked to the process of selecting future leadership.

Meanwhile, U.N. experts will be responsible for investigating any allegations of corruption and are looking at a daunting task ahead since there is also disagreement on the appointment of heads of strategic institutions including the central bank and the National Oil Corporation. To complicate matters further, the Government of National Accord (GNA) backed by the U.N. had accused Russia’s Wagner Group of deploying hundreds of fighters to support Haftar forces. Fueling the situation even further is that two Russians held by Libya since May 2019 who were released a day ago, were accused of plotting a coup with one of Muammar Gaddafi’s sons. According to press sources, the two Russians accused of spying by Libya’s GNA said the Libyan security service found a memory stick proving that Maxim Shugalei and Samir Seifan were conspiring with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to put him in power. Gaddafi is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity.

In addition, a week ago, UNSMIL Special Envoy Stephanie Williams condemned flagrant violations of the UN arms embargo by certain nations that continues in Libya despite an October agreement by rival sides to a ceasefire where all foreign fighters would leave Libya within three months. Williams had highlighted the dire situation in Libya and warned all parties that the current 20,000 foreign fighters brought into Libya, must leave as per the initial ceasefire agreement.   

In the meantime, for the next two days, Williams and the co-chairs of the Economic Working Group of the Berlin Process including Egypt, the U.S. and the EU will hold a technical meeting of representatives of Libya’s main financial institutions at Geneva’s U.N. office where they hope to reach an agreement on critical policy reforms. The meeting’s goal is to address the needs of the Libyan people and create a more stable and lasting, equitable economic situation. Though the meeting is an opportunity to make inroads toward an agreement on a set of actions to keep further economic devastation at bay – it comes at a crucial point in the Libyan economy.

Libya’s economy has long been suffering from structural issues related to the longstanding conflict in the nation as well as months-long oil blockades for the majority of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Libya not only lost $11 billion in oil sales, its foreign reserves dropped sharply this year due to revenue loss and high expenses that took funds away from development spending.  Another factor is the division rife within the Central Bank of Libya that has worsened a deepening crisis in Libya’s banking sector. The results are double-digit inflation while creating distortions and debts that are damaging Libya’s ability to function. Both parties are being encouraged to put their partisan politics aside to work in the interests of the Libyan people.

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