Conflict Between Militias in Western Libya May Lead to Postponement of Elections

There is a general feeling among most Libyans that Abdel Hamid al-Dabaiba, head of the national unity government, is expanding in strength, and implementing his own program, not that agreed upon at the political dialogue forum or presented to Parliament to gain its confidence last March, and he has the tools to achieve his goals. He has allies on the ground and an influential wing in the dialogue forum, full support from Turkey (which is present with its forces and weapons in the west of the country), a network of key actors in decision-making centers that reached the point of penetrating the Presidential Council and controlling its orientations, advisers who are striving hard to direct the compass of the coming years for his benefit. Even songs of glorification of his person have appeared, whether produced by the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, or television channels linked to the family and lobbies.

Dabaiba is seeking to convince regional and international powers of the necessity of extending his government, and this was raised in official meetings with many personalities, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin. London seems the most certain that the elections in Libya will be behind schedule. The Italians are also almost certain of it. As for the Americans, they tend to push for contentment with organizing parliamentary elections on the twenty-fourth of December and postponing the presidential elections until another time, which may be September 2022, and some leaks say that they have informed their European allies of this.

Dabaiba and his team are working to continue ruling for years to come, and this matter is no longer a secret. There are actual efforts to control the course of events and mechanisms, such as diplomacy, media, and the huge funds allocated. No one can deny this reality, and many Libyan parties are betting on the continuation of the situation as it is. Some consider it much better than any adventure to organize elections that might re-divide the country in a way that could be more violent than before.

The Brotherhood and those in their orbit consider that there is no success for elections without a constitution, and will not accept  results that are not in their favour, nor approve anything that goes against Turkish interests.

In addition to a clear influence in political affairs through penetration into the joints of the state, they control influential media at home and abroad and have the ability to deceive through manipulating the narrative and fabricating data. The Brotherhood can start a war and then pretend that they are victims, and they have ample money to allocate to contract with public relations companies to win Western public opinion, especially the Americans. In 2014, they turned against the election results that were not in their favor and pushed towards a devastating civil war from which they benefited when they were recycled at the Skhirat Conference to return to the forefront of government through the gate of the State Council, which remains to this day an obstacle to a political solution in the country.

The army,  parliament and their supporters consider that there will be no success for elections organized in the midst of chaos of militias in the west of the country under Turkish occupation. They believe that the force of arms will determine events, especially in cities dominated by one faction that will declare fraud if the people’s vote is not in their favor. They may even push for war , as happened with the “Libya Dawn”  in the summer of 2014, whose first goal was to overthrow the election results.

The Brotherhood and its allies are publicly maneuvering to postpone the elections, and they announced this before the United Nations mission, and have threatened war and to divide the country if those affiliated with the army or the former regime win. They are proposing to postpone the presidential elections at least until the imposition of a constitution that they believe will guarantee them a position in power, and prevent any upcoming president from controlling their fate, even if it is Khalifa Haftar or Saif al-Islam Gaddafi personally.

Parliament, the army leadership, national forces and supporters of the former regime insist on organizing the elections on time, even though they realize that the matter has become difficult. By doing so, they aim to implicate the United Nations and the regional and international interlocutors, and they are trying to prove a fact that they have long worked to convince the world of, which is that neither political Islam with its various branches, nor militias, nor those with regional influence in Tripoli wish to achieve the goals of the Road Map, including the organization of elections.

The real problem in Libya is that there is wealth that raises ambitions internally and externally, and there is loose money that tempts even those who claim to be the pillar of integrity to theft, and there are manifestations of unprecedented luxury, especially in the west of the country, that are a result of the expansion of corruption and looting of public money and the control of arms over the financial decision departments. There is a wide layer of influential people linked to the actors on both sides of the conflict that dominate the markets, currency trade and bank credits, and there are tacit agreements on sharing wealth and power during the next stage, provided that each party remains in its position. No one wants democracy in Libya, and even the international community is reviewing its position after the August 15 incident in Afghanistan.

Dabaiba realizes that the presence of Turkish forces and their mercenaries in the west of the country prevents the army (controlling the east and south) from entering Tripoli, and Haftar realizes that his forces’ control over the sources of wealth gives him a strong position in the military and political equation. The Russians and Turks agree on this, and each of them play to keep the situation as it is. There is no problem in organizing parliamentary elections, whether on December 24, 2021 or January 24, 2022, but it is better that the balances remain as they are until something happens.

There is no return to the war between eastern and western Libya, However, the war may be in western Libya between the competing militias, and they may be pushed to actually postpone the elections on the pretext of the lack of security stability.

Another matter is what the international community decides its position will be on armed groups whether it intervenes to disarm them. Some indicators suggest that there may be a unification of the military institution in the spring of 2022, and that Haftar is willing to integrate militias into the army and security institutions. Politicized warlords, most recently Salah Badi, are preparing the ground for this.

The House of Representatives will not withdraw its confidence from the Dabaiba government, and the upcoming international conference will bring all parties together at one table. It will be agreed that the transitional phase will continue for some time. The current leaders, especially Dabaiba in the west and Haftar in the east, are devoted to this, and have already launched a public relations campaign in social, cultural and even sports circles. And when the right moment comes, they will seek to share power according to regional quotas, whether through elections or from outside. As for the people, they have to endure and wait.

Al Arab

Translation by Internationalist 360°