Head of Libyan government announces new political roadmap, including elections

Wed 19 Jul 2017

Head of Libyan government announces new political roadmap, including elections

On 16 July Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of Libya's UN-backed government, called for parliamentary and presidential elections in March 2018, as part of a new political roadmap. However, the drawing up of an election plan is not effortless, and installing nationwide polls would be complicated as a result of Libya’s political divisions. Insecurity continues, and infrastructure is deteriorating in the country: a severe liquidity crisis, frequent power and water cuts, and failing public services have worsened living conditions.

The aim of the roadmap presented by al-Sarraj is to elect a new president and parliament, which would be in office for "three years maximum or until the drafting and organisation of a referendum for a constitution". Al-Sarraj also called for a national ceasefire and emphasized his "determination to escape the current crisis and unify Libyans".

The two main opponents in the Libyan crisis, Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and General Khalifa Haftar, came together in May this year and reached an agreement to hold elections by March 2018. Earlier in February, a planned meeting between the two fell through after Haftar decided not to take part. General Khalifa Haftar leads the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), which is made up of former army units and militias loyal to them. As the main opponent of the Islamist militias, he is backed by the government in Tobruk.

Tripoli vs Tobruk
Frustration grew in 2014 with the General National Congress (GNC), the legislative authority of Libya after the civil war. They refused to step down after their mandate expired, and thousands of Libyans protested. GNC members had extended the mandate to enable a special assembly to write a new constitution, which they claimed was necessary to stabilize Libya. High levels of violence surrounded the country’s second elections since the revolution, and citizens voted for members of parliament rather than parties. Although the GNC eventually gave way to the newly elected House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk, the government had already split into rivalling factions.

The United Nations-backed, internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA)  asserted in the capital Tripoli competes with the HoR for legitimacy and control over resources. The GNA was formed on 17 December 2015, as part of the Libyan Political Agreement. As a UN-led initiative, the GNA is recognized as the sole legitimate government.

Along with the agreement came the formation of a nine-member Presidency Council, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. He arrived in Tripoli in March 2016 to set up his administration and gain support of the various militias and politicians, but his government has little power in practice. Since it lacks the support of armed factions, especially those in the east, it has limited authority. Al-Sarraj has struggled to form a functioning government, partly because a unified strong Libyan army will mean the days of the militias are numbered.

Sources: BBC, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera, Reuters, Al Arabiya