Government Duel in Libya Triggers More Instability

A senior UN official warned Wednesday that the current political stalemate in Libya could destabilize and create two parallel governments in the country.

US Head of Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo told the UN Security Council that “as long as the impasse over the legitimacy of the executive continues, there will be two parallel governments in Libya.” It also added that, “the situation could lead to instability and possible unrest, and deal a severe blow to the prospects for elections.”

The latest political crisis in Libya began with the suspension of presidential and parliamentary elections on December 24 due to disputes over the electoral law and who can run for president. Nearly three million Libyans have registered to take part in the vote.

Following the suspension, the House of Representatives (DPR) on February 24 adopted a constitutional amendment calling for the appointment of a constitutional review committee representing the three regions of the country. The committee has not yet been formed, however.

On March 1, legislators in the DPR voted to establish a new transitional government. Former interior minister Fathi Bashagha has been appointed prime minister. His cabinet was sworn in two days later.

“The United Nations received reports that the vote was marred by procedural flaws and threats of violence against some members of the assembly and their families… These flaws have an impact on the credibility of the electoral process,” DiCarlo said.

He also acknowledged that the situation on the ground was now relatively calm, but that there was an increase in threatening rhetoric and political tensions. Local flights between the Libyan capital Tripoli and eastern Libya have been suspended, and some troops in the west of the country have moved towards Tripoli.

“The leadership of the Government of National Unity has rejected the legitimacy of the vote, stating that they will only hand power to an elected government,” DiCarlo said of the government led by incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. “Meanwhile Bashagha insists he is the legitimate head of government.”

UN Special Adviser Stephanie Williams has spoken with stakeholders and is trying to find consensus on the legal and constitutional framework for holding elections as soon as possible. He also offered to mediate between the two rival prime ministers. [em/rs]