LPDF begins voting to appoint new Presidential Council and Prime Minister
On 1 February, the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) opened in Geneva, with the aim to vote on a three-man Presidential Council and the next Prime Minister for Libya. Together, the Presidential Council and the Prime Minister are intended to form a new transitional executive authority for Libya until national elections are held on 24 December 2021. On 1 February, the Acting Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Stephanie Williams, addressed the LPDF delegates, emphasising that the LPDF process is intended to select a truly unitary government and stating that ‘this project is not about power sharing or dividing the cake.’
On 30 January, UNSMIL announced the list of candidates for the three-man Presidency Council and the post of Prime Minister. According to UNSMIL, all of the candidates have pledged to commit to national elections on 24 December 2021. They are also committed to declaring all of their assets inside and outside Libya, as well as the assets of their spouses and minor children. The 24 candidates for the Presidential Council include the Government of National Accord (GNA) commander of the Western Military Zone Major-General Osama Juweili, the Head of the High Council of State (HCS) Khaled Mishri, the GNA Minister of Defence Salah al-Din Namroush, the Speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR) Aqeela Saleh, and the GNA Ambassador to Jordan, Mohammed al-Bargathi. The 21 candidates for Prime Minister include the GNA Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq and GNA Minister of Interior Fathi Bashaagha. Serraj has been accused of jockeying for position and consolidating his powerbase in Tripoli in advance of the LPDF’s vote. Unconfirmed reports have previously suggested that Serraj may be preparing to announce plans for a ‘new Libyan government’ and ‘reformed PC’, possibly brokered by Russia between Serraj and the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar.
The outcome of the LPDF is likely to be turbulent as rival factions seek to secure their positions. Serraj and Bashaagha in particular have been consolidating their positions ahead of the vote in Geneva. The risk that an alternative political process may be declared in order to scupper the UN process and to bolster Serraj’s support remains high. It is unclear which individuals will emerge victorious from the LPDF process. It is generally thought the Prime Minister is likely to be from Tripolitania, with the Head of the Presidential Council coming from Cyrenaica. Although there are uncertainties associated with determining how the vote will go, it is considered that the most likely outcome for a new executive authority will be composed of Fathi Bashagaha as Prime Minister, Aqeela Saleh as Head of the Presidential Council. Either Mossa al-Koni or Abdul Seif al-Nasr could become southern PC members, and either Osama Juwali or Salahuddin al-Namroush could become Tripolitania PC members. However, strong opposition to Saleh and Bashaagha may favour compromise candidates. If the LPDF agrees on a new executive authority, this will need to be ratified by a resolution by the UN Security Council. If any international actors, including Russia, favour an alternative parallel process, then they could block the endorsement of the LPDF result and leave the outcome in indefinite limbo, thereby allowing a parallel process to move further ahead. Finally, it is possible that the LPDF will fail to agree on a new executive authority. The LPDF is likely to continue to be plagued by the same regional, personal, and political divides that previously interrupted its progress, so it may be that the delegates will be unable to reach consensus.