The GNA Is Leaning Towards the HoR and Haftar To Win Legitimacy Inside Libya
On the 64th anniversary of Libya’s independence on the 24 December, Fayez Serraj gave his first address to the Libyan people as the PM-elect of the UN-mediated Government of National Accord (GNA). Fayez’s position and that of GNA have been buttressed by a unanimous UN Security Council Resolution on Dec 23 claiming that the GNA that Fayez will head is the last and best hope for the creation of a future sovereign country called Libya out of the current mess of militias and terra nullius that currently inhabits central Northern Africa.
Yet for the GNA to truly take root it must appeal to a broad range of actors inside Libya. This seems unlikely as Martin Kobler and the UN imposed the GNA via a process that is fundamentally biased towards the HoR. And yet through its intransigence the HoR is successfully wring more concessions out of the international community and the GNA.
After meeting with the presidents of both Tunisia and Egypt, Serraj got a major breakthrough after he met directly with the hard-line, federalist opposition to the GNA which had been obstructing the majority vote in the HoR, reportedly striking a deal to keep Haftar as the commander of the LNA in exchange for the HoR endorsement of his cabinet. Unfortunately, this quid pro quo would sap the GNA of even more legitimacy than it would bring it.
In the Eastern region, a number of local council and tribal leaders have also given their conditional support to the GNA presidency council, headed by Fayez Serraj, on condition that the LNA and Khalifa Haftar remain in their positions. In a separate statement, the Obaidat tribes of the eastern Cyrenaica region announced their support for the GNA at a meeting in Ain Laly west of Derna and furthermore called upon the House of Representatives president, Ageela Salah to follow suit. Some reports indicate that Salah has now backed away from creating an alternate political process and might be willing to give his initial approval to the Obeidat request for him to support the GNA. He has gone as far as to say that he would hand in his resignation as HoR president if that was called for.
The latest developments now suggest that an official and binding vote of endorsement of the GNA by the HoR may actually happen in the next few days. If executed properly this could bridge the legitimacy gap by giving local legal backing to what is actually an internationally imposed government. While the opposition to the GNA inside the HoR on the GNA seems to be reducing, divisions within the GNC factions inside Tripoli are likely to continue to prevent a majority vote or endorsement of the GNA in the GNC, despite actual meetings taking place between UN security mission officials and various militia leaders in the capital. The quick unravelling of the alternative ‘Libyan-Libyan’ dialogue process embarked on by the leaders of both rival factions has left the GNC leadership, and members opposing the GNA, rudderless and excluded. Moreover, the GNA is less appealing to GNC constituencies by the day as its winning support in the East has meant making more compromises to pro-Haftar and pro-HoR opinion. In short, the fragility of the presidency council, the seemingly irreversible ratification of Haftar by the GNA and its perceived imposition by western countries, still poses dangerous threats of instability and open conflict in the western region.
What seems most likely at present is the GNA will replace the HoR as the Western backed, ‘so-called legitimate’ government of Libya but it will be opposed by exactly those factions that opposed the HoR, except for the few such as some moderate Misratans who have endorsed the process. So in this way it seems an improvement even if it complicates the picture even further. What is needed is some mechanism from both inside and outside Libya to leverage spoilers to make real compromises. This is only possible if the international community acts with gumption but also pursues a more-neutral and not purely anti-ISIS line.