UN Libya dialogue ‘pauses’ under a cloud of controversy, leaving it severely compromised
On 11 November, the 74 participants in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), who had begun face-to-face meetings in Tunis on 9 November, announced they had agreed on a roadmap for a fourth transition phase. The delegates said the roadmap they had approved would create a new 3-member Presidential Council (PC) and Government of National Unity (GNU) and that it was essentially a draft that had been presented to them by UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), with some amendments. On the evening of 15 November, the UN-facilitated LPDF concluded its discussions in Tunis without appointing new executive authorities for a planned fourth transitional phase. Acting Head of the UNSMIL, Stephanie Williams, said that ‘no names had been discussed’ for new Presidential Council members or a new unity government. Williams added that ‘we have agreed to reconvene in about a week in a virtual meeting (to) agree on the selection mechanism for the coming authority’. The LPDF’s hasty conclusion coincided with credible reports that some delegates had been offered significant bribes for preferential voting on the new head of the Presidential Council and the Prime Minister positions. Williams said an investigation would be opened into these claims.
Despite the momentum and attention it has received in recent weeks, the LPDF now appears on the brink of collapse, having failed to achieve its primary aim of naming new transitional leaders, and its previously questionable legitimacy has been further (and likely fatally) undermined with claims of attempted bribery of delegates. Moreover, Russia, Turkey, Egypt and France are all likely positioning themselves to supplant the UN as the leader of the Libya file during this critical stage and are expected to introduce in the coming days alternative dialogues and roadmaps they have long been preparing. As this is happening, key regional and international actors may attempt to position their own domestic Libyan clients in favorable positions as a means of securing their own influence in North African’s future political environment and protecting their strategic and commercial interests in Libya. Although the UN will likely attempt to portray continued momentum when the dialogues resume, it is assessed unlikely that any outcome in the upcoming session will be achieved.