What can we expect from the new Libyan executive?
The United Nations-led Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) elected on 5 February a three-member Presidential Council (PC) and a prime minister tasked with forming a government of national unity leading the country to the December 2021 general election. The new prime minister is Abdulhamid Dbaiba, a politician from Misrata with strong business ties to the Turkish government through his construction company. The new head of the PC is Mohamed Elmenfi, who represents eastern Libya and is ideologically aligned with Libya's Islamist factions. The first practical obstacle facing the new executive will be forming a cabinet that can secure a confidence vote from the eastern-based parliament, the House of Representatives, by 26 February.
The four personalities elected have no strong power base and played no role in the recent civil war; they were elected, not by virtue of the support they attracted, but because delegates wanted to ensure the defeat of their rivals. The new executive was elected with a mechanism relying on majority voting, rather than consensus, avoiding addressing issues such as who should lead a unified army; as a result, the new unified government does not have a shared political vision and will struggle to obtain cross-regional recognition of its legitimacy. The elected personalities are now likely to come under pressure from competing factions and militias keen to have their economic interests secured, as well as from those factions that failed to gain any representation in the process.
IHS Markit assesses that the new executive is unlikely to be able to forge an agreement to form a united command over Libya's armed factions, with western armed groups unlikely to accept a leading role for the commander of the eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar, while Haftar's supporters will press for him to retain a leadership role. This institutional fragility will also enable foreign powers involved in the civil war, notably Russia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, to continue supporting their respective local proxies and derail the process, should they perceive their influence threatened by a new government. Deployment of western armed militias towards Tripoli over the next few weeks would indicate their intention to overturn the LPDF outcome, increasing the risk of a resumption of small-scale fighting in the Libyan capital.
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