Over the past two years, three political parties in Libya, the House of Representatives, the State Council, and the Government of National Unity in Tripoli, have exchanged roles in obstructing any looming progress in the political process and paving the way for general elections. The arguments and battles of these parties stood every time an obstacle preventing the people’s desired goal.
The old, repeated chapter of the political rivalries between these three bodies topped the scene this time, the head of the National Unity Government, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, who, as soon as he sensed a sign of agreement between the two legislative parties regarding the constitutional issue governing the electoral process, hastened to put the stick in the wheel. He refused to approve any constitutional rule before a referendum on it by the people.
Refuse to hand over power
In a speech during a popular celebration at early this week, Dbeibeh hinted that he would continue to refuse to hand over his government’s duties to a new government, even if the House of Representatives and the State Council agreed on that. This is based on refusing the new constitutional amendments between them, saying that “any constitutional basis for elections must be put forward to a popular referendum.”
Dbeibeh rejected what he described as “tailoring the election laws to fit one person,” stressing “the need to agree on the constitution and for Libyans to vote on it and on the constitutional basis.”
The head of the “Unity Government” in Tripoli made this statement just two days after the State Council announced the approval of the 13th constitutional amendment referred by Parliament last month. The amendment defines the form and competencies of the legislative and executive bodies, which will assume power after the presidential and parliamentary elections.
This new escalation by Dbeibeh, which keeps the political process in a box of deadlock and stagnation, angered many parties in the political scene. They accused Dbeibeh of wanting to continue in power in any way and being indifferent to the critical situation in the country due to the division in which his government contributes a great deal.
The head of the State Council, Khaled Al-Mishri, was at the forefront of critics of Dbeibeh’s “incapacitating conditions” for leaving office. He spoke of a plan to remove Dbeibeh and his government not only from the current scene but also to prevent him from running for the upcoming elections.
“Prime Minister Abdul Hameed Dbeibeh should not run in the upcoming elections and respect the pledges he made,” Al-Mashri said. “We may put a clause in the electoral laws that can prevent Dbeibeh and members of the Presidential Council from running for the upcoming elections,” he explained.
“We can not accept any electoral laws except by agreement between the House of Representatives and the State Council committees, as stipulated in the 13th constitutional amendment,” Al-Mishri warned.
He called for “changing the High National Electoral Commission (HNEC) before the elections and forming a mini-government to supervise the implementation of the electoral process,” saying that “the UN mission agrees to that.”
The head of the State Council considered that “it is not logical for a government that controls only a third of the country to supervise presidential and parliamentary elections.”
Not up for discussion
Member of Parliament, Issam al-Jehani, underestimated the conditions set by Dbeibeh for leaving office. The most notable of which is holding the referendum on the constitutional amendment. “The legislative aspects and the preparation of the electoral road map are the prerogative of Parliament and the State Council, and the latter announced its approval of the constitutional rule, which means that it is ready for implementation,” Jehani explained.
He stressed that “the referendum on the constitutional basis is not raised in any discussion or dialogue between the two chambers.” “The 13th Constitutional Amendment does not include this procedure, which means going to the elections directly after completing the remaining steps of issuing laws and addressing the role of HNEC,” Jehani said.
Implementation of the agreement
Member of the State Council, Belkacem Qzait, indicated that the agreements in the constitutional aspect between them and Parliament have already begun to enter into force and “It is no longer possible to retract them.” He indicated that the State Council will form, within two days, a committee for preparing electoral laws,” expecting to hold the first meeting of the joint committee within a week.
The Misratan parliamentarian supported the many calls for the formation of a new government that focuses on holding elections as soon as possible. He stressed that “forming a unified government that works throughout the country is important for holding elections, and it is not possible to hold elections in Libya in the presence of more than one government.”
The member of the State Council described Dbeibeh’s statements of the need for a referendum on the constitutional amendment as “an attempt to survive and cling to power.” He called on the international community to “impose sanctions on those obstructing the elections in Libya if it is sincere in its desire to resolve the Libyan crisis.”
Will Dbeibeh survive?
With the battle raging between Dbeibeh and his opponents, whose numbers have increased due to his political stances in the past period, can the prime minister stand firm in the middle of the storm by relying solely on the military force supporting him in Tripoli? Or will his opponents succeed in isolating him from the power he continues to cling to?
Dbeibeh’s last way out of the current impasse, according to a member of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), Ahmed Al-Sharkasi, lies in supporting the recent initiative announced by Abdoulaye Bathily Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and Head of UNSMIL. Dbeibeh supports Bathily’s initiative “not out of conviction, but out of spite in Parliament and the State Council, who strongly rejected it,” Sharkasi said.
“The UN envoy’s initiative targets Dbeibeh to a large extent, but to a lesser extent than the House of Representatives and the State Council,” Sharkasi added. He ruled out “what some say about Dbeibeh receiving messages of reassurance from western powers that his government will continue and supervise the upcoming elections.”
“Dbeibeh knows that if the two councils succeed in enacting electoral laws and blocking the Bathily’s initiative, their first decision will be to overthrow his government, Sharkasi explained. “He has no choice but to support the United Nations initiative and complicate the situation so that he can remain in power for as long as possible, “the LPDF member said.