Can Libya’s New Interim Government Break the Impasse?

16 Feb 2021 09:52 PM


Libya’s new Government of National Unity (GNU) faces big administrative hurdles and a limited mandate.

On 5 February, the UN-assembled Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) appointed a new interim government. Intended to see the country through until elections scheduled for 24 December 2021, the appointment of the Government of National Unity (GNU) ostensibly breaks the political deadlock of the past 5 years. But what can the GNU achieve? And how should the international community respond?

A limited mandate and low expectations

February 2021 conjures images of the same period in 2016, when the unity government produced by UN-mediated talks, the Government of National Accord (GNA), was unable to overcome the institutional divides that had emerged in 2014.  And now, 5 years later, it appears that the speaker of the House of Representatives’ eastern faction, Agila Saleh, is setting conditions for the recognition of the GNU that are highly unlikely to be met. 

Like the GNA before it, the GNU has a very limited mandate. Firstly, it was appointed by a total of only 39 votes. Secondly, the candidates selected to head the GNU, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dabaiba and the president of the presidential council, Mohamed Mnefi, appear to have been chosen in order to prevent the selection of the current interior minister, Fathi Bashagha, and Agila Saleh. This reflects the fact that the process itself was geared towards a power sharing formula rather than based on the development of a policy platform or political reconciliation. 

The coalition of forces that pushed Dabaiba and Mnefi over the line at the LPDF includes uneasy bedfellows from across the political spectrum.  For spoilers of the political process, such as Khalifa Haftar, whose forces had sought to topple the GNA through an assault on Tripoli, the existence of another weak government may be a good outcome.

Click here to continue reading the full version of this Expert Comment on the Chatham House website.