Without elections, is Libya headed towards a de facto partition?
Despite the mandate of Libya’s UN-backed and internationally recognised government expiring in June, it is still capable of organising the elections as per the UN-sponsored roadmap. However, the eastern-based Tobruk parliament, House of Representatives (HoR), has designated a parallel and rival government in a bid to replace the legitimate PM, Abdulhamid Dbeibah.
Most recently, the pro-Haftar HoR has given its confidence vote to the Fathi Bashagha-led rival government to challenge the UN-backed government and the overwhelming majority of Libyans.
On Wednesday, commenting on the developments, Libyan PM Abdulhamid Dbeibah in a video statement said “giving confidence to a new government by the House of Representatives (HoR) is a conspiracy to legitimise mandate extension for the HoR itself”.
During his speech, Dbeibah stated that the approval process for a parallel government was fabricated by the HoR.
The UN has urged Libyans to remain calm and avoid any incitement to violence, hate speech, and disinformation.
Abdulkader Assad, the Libyan journalist, told TRT World that, “it's hard to predict what can or cannot Bashagha do to be in control of the government from inside Tripoli because for him, Tripoli is where he wants to be based and any other city like Benghazi or Sirte would be equivalent to non-existence for his government.”
According to Sami Hamdi, Managing Director of the International Interest, a global risk and intelligence company, “Fathi Bashagha's ability to remove Dbeibah depends entirely on the extent to which he can win over the numerous militias in Tripoli.”
“Without the support of these militias, Bashagha will not be able to peacefully (nor physically) remove Dbeibah,” Hamdi tells TRT World.
Assad says major - but not all major - armed groups issued a statement in support of Dbeibah as PM.
“This was a very good point for Dbeibah but in reality it wasn’t a very bad point for Bashagha. Armed groups in Libya, if anything, are the shifting power and their power and leverage can be secured by the toughest on the ground and sometimes by the one who makes bigger concessions and promises in their favour,” Assad adds.
On the other hand, Hamdi thinks “this could change as the militias are loyal to their own interests first, and not to the state institutions.”
But what does this mean going forward? According to Assad, one possibility is that a parallel government headed by Bashagha is based in either Benghazi or Sirte.
“This is a scenario that brings Libya back to square one, puts an end to all hopes for democratic elections and deprives Libyans from ever casting a vote to choose their leadership. Whether this will happen or not, the whole issue depends on how the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and international community react to the new government.”
Hamdi also believes that the Bashagha-led parallel government “puts Libya at a crossroads” and the HoR’s recognition of the parallel government means they believe Russia, France, and other traditional allies will support and recognise Bashagha.
“This can only cement the de facto partition, and increases the risk of an official recognition of partition,” Hamdi tells TRT World.
He adds that Bashagha can navigate his way to power if he forces a reality on Tripoli in his favour by winning over the militias.
Hamdi says the UN, Russia, France, and other traditional allies aren't helping the situation.
“The reality is that despite public assertions from international actors that they support Dbeibah, these same actors (including the UN) are talking to Bashagha and engaging him.”