Despite long list of nominations, Libyans could revert to Sarraj

Turkey has opposed a recent proposal for Bashagha to assume the premiership and the appointment of Aguila Saleh as head of the presidential council.
Monday 01/02/2021
Fayez al-Sarraj, Prime Minister of Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), gives a speech during a military parade in Tripoli, on December 24, 2020. (AFP)
Fayez al-Sarraj, Prime Minister of Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), gives a speech during a military parade in Tripoli, on December 24, 2020. (AFP)

TUNIS--Libyans are impatiently awaiting the next steps in their country’s political scene after the UN mission announced a long list of candidates from whom negotiators will pick the head the presidential council and the prime minister.

Observers do not rule out, however, the possible failure of the process of electing the two heads of the executive authority. Such a failure would lead to a return to the current presidential council headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.

The number of candidates to head the presidential council has reached 24, while the number of candidates to head the government reached 21, from all over the three regions of Libya; Tripoli, Cyrenaica (Barqah) and Fezzan.

Among the main candidates to head the government are the current Minister of Interior Fathi Bashagha,  Deputy Chairman of the Presidential Council Ahmed Maiteeq, and two Misratan businessmen Abdulhamid Dabaiba and Mohammad al-Muntasir.

The list of candidates for the presidency of the presidential council also includes prominent figures such as Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh, State Council Speaker Khalid al-Mishri, former member of the national conference Sharif Al-Wafi, the Commander of the Western Military Region Major General Osama al-Jowaili, and the Defence Minister of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), Salah al-Din al-Namroush.

The long list of candidates drew the attention of observers. But some saw it as normal and expected the list to shorten with the start of talks in Geneva on Monday, especially since most of the nominations are not serious and the candidates aim by their candidacies to negotiate for other positions.

Political activist Suliman Albayoudi‎ said he expressed the number of candidates to recede to four or less for each region, with eventually no more than 12 candidates, from the three regions, for the presidential council. Then, the number should decrease further in the coming days, until a list representing the new executive authority is agreed upon.

“The failure of the dialogue this time would mean going to the alternative plan. Accordingly, restoration of the presidential council and the designation by Sarraj of a separate prime minister are ready to be announced,” he said.

There were expressions of support to the UN mission from several governments encouraging it to complete the process of electing a new authority. The most prominent among such expressions were the congratulations extended by the US embassy, which lauded “the Libyans for their agreement by announcing the names of candidates for positions of the interim executive authority”. There are however expectations that the UN mission could face obstacles in reaching the needed understandings.

Albayoudi told The Arab Weekly, “the failure of dialogue and of the agreement is closely tied to the ability of the presidential formation to take into consideration the overlapping international factors on the Libyan file. This is what must be taken in consideration by the members of the Humanitarian Dialogue Forum, which is led by a United Nations mission.”

“If their results do not take into account the complex international situation, then the option of restoring the presidential council will face an outburst of political violence on the ground, and this is a fact that we must deal with. Libya today is an arena of conflict and an open field”, he added.

Most observers agree that the UN mission will not be able to impose an agreement that is not acceptable to Turkey, especially since the previous voting operations within the forum were in favour of the team led by Dabaiba, which is close to Ankara.

After its withdrawal, the same team also caused the disruption of the voting process on the voting mechanism for choosing the head of government and the president of the presidential council, before the UN envoy, Stephanie Williams, formed the advisory committee that succeeded in voting the mechanism in Geneva.

Reports have been circulating for months about the existence of Turkish-Italian efforts for the return with some adjustments to the current formula of the presidential council. In that case, Fayez al-Sarraj would remain the council’s president with two new deputies added to him, while a prime minister would be chosen from the east.

The Government of National Accord later denied the reports, but talk about the deal did not stop. Speculations grew even further after a number of activists supporting Fathi Bashagha published reports according to which Abdulhamid Dabaiba recently visited Benghazi and met with Haftar.

Turkey has opposed a recent proposal for Bashagha to assume the premiership and the appointment of Aguila Saleh as head of the presidential council.

According to recent media reports, Turkish opposition could be due to the support given to Bashagha by France and Egypt.

Press reports have indicated that Turkey was  angered by Bashagha’s visits to Paris and Cairo, which were considered an indication of the two countries’ acceptance of him as the next prime minister.