Hard-liner Obstructionism of GNA move to Tripoli Heightens Tensions in East and West
Libya endured heightened tensions as the anticipated arrival of the Government of National Accord (GNA) to Tripoli failed to materialize. The Presidential Council (PC) of the GNA remains in exile in Tunis. GNC hard-liners, including PM Khalifa Al Ghweil, did their best to prevent GNA members from landing in the capital by essentially closing Tripoli’s airspace and declaring a state of emergency. In the East, president Agheela Saleh finally called on HoR members to debate the proposed GNA and constitutional amendment for the Libyan Political Agreement on 28 and 29 March. However, as the political stalemate drags on, GNA inability to land in Tripoli, HoR failure to hold a voting session and the need to renegotiate the GNA’s security arrangements in Tripoli may torpedo the long UN mediated process in its entirety.
Saleh’s calls for a vote reflect the growing fear that in the event of GNA success, the HoR could find itself side lined by its pro-GNA members in an assembly somewhere other than Tubruq. A similar scenario would enflame separatist sentiment in the East to unprecedented proportions. Already, the Presidential Council’s declaration of legitimacy heightened Eastern opposition to the UN peace process. The revelation that the GNA’s security arrangements in the capital would centre on Tripolitanian forces added insult to injury. Haftar’s advances in Benghazi and the oil crescent in recent months have also heightened Eastern views of the UN peace process as dispensable.
Needless to say, the minority hard line politicians’ and militias’ attempts at retaining control of Tripoli at all costs is causing widespread discontent in much of the West. However, even in Tripoli support for the GNA is derived from a sense of desperation at the lack of viable alternatives. The continuation of political deadlock may strain the support for what would be perceived as an increasingly irrelevant GNA.
The discontent is heightened by the worsening economic conditions, which have caused the price of bread and other staple goods to double in one week alone. Combined with the impending liquidity and currency crises a failure to resolve Libya’s political deadlock risks undoing the relative progress made through the UN peace process in the past months.