Analysis | The Formation of UNSMIL’s New “Interim” Government Will Mean No Elections in 2021 – Al Marsad

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) headed by Stephanie Williams confirmed its intention to move forward with the formation of a new “interim” government and Presidential Council within the stalled Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) which it sponsored for months, despite the UN Security Council’s appointment of Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis as the UN Libya envoy. After severe disagreements and delays by the LPDF, the installation of a new “interim” government is now likely to jeopardise the December 2021 elections.

(Libya, 16 January 2021) – In this context, over the last few months UNSMIL divided the LPDF’s 75-member into several groups and committees, including an advisory committee, the consensus committee, the legal committee, the constitutional committee, a women’s bloc, and so on.

Last November after the start of the LPDF, the participants decided to agree on 24 December 2021 as the date for the Presidential and Parliamentary elections, at a time when a new presidential and government was supposed to be have been formed by the end of November and early December 2020.

As the dialogue within the LPDF stumbled for reasons too long to list here, and which AlMarsad has warned and detailed elsewhere, time is running out for the formation of this supposed interim government. It was agreed that the new interim government had a shelf life of only 12 months, and it was not extendable when the dates were announced in November 2020. But we are now at the middle of January, having lost 2 months of its mandate, as there are only 11 months left before the election date.

Today, Williams said that the announcement of the result for reaching an agreement on a recommended selection mechanism for the new executive authority will take place on 19 January 2021, after voting has been completed. There are low expectations that the vote will produce any meaningful result as past LPDF deliberations have amply shown.


What if this vote actually succeeds in approving a mechanism and moving the dialogue forward to the next stage, namely, meeting candidates face to face, choosing a government and names of the new presidential members—could elections still be possible for December 2021?

1. We must examine this in detail. If the LPDF agreed on the mechanism for selecting the new executive authority by the end of January, then the process would move to the name stage: to the actual names of the candidates vying for the posts, and this would be in February—meaning that the election date would be only 10 months away.

2. On the assumption that the LPDF members reach a decision on the names (3 members for the Presidential Council and the head of government) and agree on them by early February, this would mean that there is a head of government, a cabinet and a Presidential Council who would be formed on paper. This is because according to the draft agreement at the Tunis Dialogue, it would need to be ratified by the House of Representatives (HoR), leaving less than 10 months to the election deadline.

3. Moreover, if we assume that the divided HoR met with its two parts within two weeks to give confidence to these new rulers (and this is unlikely), in addition to the time that the head of government would need to form his/her cabinet, we can assume that this will take much of the month of March. This would leave only 9 months to the elections.

4. In the meantime, are we to assume there are no difficulties on the ground or legal obstacles such as the failure of the new government to gain confidence? If such a scenario did prevail it would mean reconvening the LPDF to ensure names that would allow it to gain Parliamentary confidence, and this means that more time would be wasted.

5. Furthermore, it would be expected that Fayez al-Sarraj, his government, Abdullah al-Thini and his government, both will request a period to prepare the handover, which means that the month of April would have reached and only 8 months to the election date.

6. Given that the headquarters of the government will be in Tripoli and the Presidential Council will be in the city of Sirte, this requires time to equip the headquarters, offices, the houses, and so on, in addition to another period to appoint and negotiate the deputy ministries, directors of agencies and companies, and so forth. Once again, this means that the new government and the Presidential Council will not be effective on the ground until June—if things go well without additional obstacles. The deadline to the election would only be 6 months.


This leads to the next question: Does UNSMIL’s Stephanie Williams think that there is even one Libyan who believes that any Libyan government would accept to remain in office for only 6 months and will not attempt to hold on to power as the election deadline is reached?

What does she think Libyans are likely to assume given that the previous UNSMIL experiment of not holding elections but appointing an interim government (Fayez al-Sarraj) which illegally remained in power even when their terms in office expired by 5 years?

Adding to the fact that Sarraj is now campaigning to remain in power with a new unity government and that could mean an additional 2 years of unelected government, making it almost 7 years? Is there a single Libyan official who would agree to work for only 6 months as a minister or deputy, a duration that is not even sufficient for organizing a ministry’s office?

Is there any Libyan who believes that all this struggle and jostling over positions at the LPDF is for a government that has only 6 months to govern before elections?

Is there any guarantee that these new authorities, in their short period of rule, will not seek to obstruct the December elections by creating problems about the constitutional rule, as Muslim Brotherhood and their representatives and proxy bloc at the LPDF have done at the political dialogue? Can we rightly assume the Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamist camp who realize that they are likely to lose in any fair election in Libya, and therefore know that their only access to power is through a governing mechanism that nothing to do with the true democracy—therefore will not allow citizens the right to select whoever they wish to government their country?

Two ways to solve the legitimacy crisis: A clear way and a complicated way | Al-Marsad Infographic

Is there any guarantee that the head of the new government and all its stakeholders will keep not keep the present situation intact—that is, governing by orchestrated consensus instead of an election-based democracy? Will they not obstruct the 2021 elections with wars on the ground and fabricate different conflicts?

According to the majority of experts and Libyan and non-Libyan diplomats, the answer is “absolutely not”. Any new presidential council and government, is unlikely to  leave before 3 to 4 years, and this something that even Libyan children know.

Perhaps Libyans will not see the ballot box until 2025, and by that time Stephanie Williams and other UNSMIL functionaries will have already disappeared from the political scene and left Libyans implicated in, and stuck with, a convoluted mechanism through an unelected consensus without any checks and controls. The process has only promised to deliver a government that is no less worse than the previous “interim” one. Sadly, the entire process has only ensured that domestic and international predators can continue robbing Libya blind.

The only people who will pay the price for this political sorcery instigated by UNSMIL are Libyans, and not Williams, or countries, people and groups walking around it. Every single poll and canvassing of opinion has shown time and time again that the Libyan people want elections. And yet, Instead of moving the country straight to elections and allowing Libyans to exercise their democratic right after 5 years of an expired and unaccountable Sarraj government—UNSMIL has only hindered this dream, and assisted in ensuring that the right of every Libyan citizen is delayed and delayed and delayed.




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