Discussions in Geneva have ended unsuccessfully after the United Nations organized negotiations between Aguila Saleh and Khaled al-Mishri, representatives of opposing factions in Libya. The two factions are an eastern based parliament, led by Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha, and the Tripoli based State Council, led by incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. The talks followed a contentious election period and previously failed attempts to resolve election issues, including discussions in Cairo, also brokered by the UN. They sought to reach a deal that would establish a Libyan constitution and electoral process. Although the need to construct electoral systems began after election plans were abandoned in December 2021, violent breakouts between the factions have increased the need for resolution.
The UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Libya, Stephanie Williams, was intimately involved in the discussions. Her opening remarks on the 28th of June, published by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, encouraged leaders to make definitive compromises and reach consensus. She has since made a statement on continued disagreement between the factions, saying “While the progress secured during the three rounds of consultations in Cairo and this Geneva is significant, it remains insufficient as a basis to move forward towards comprehensive national elections, which is a genuine desire of the Libyan people.”
The December 2021 election failure which sparked this conflict revealed deeper and more significant issues within the electoral process, many of which are being addressed currently. According to the publication Foreign Policy, the two fatal issues were the “differences over the idea of holding a presidential election in the [contemporary] conflict, and the resulting failure to reach the required consensus on a framework for elections.” The framework for elections is now being debated, with the primary point of contention being the candidates’ eligibility requirements. The two factions involved in the conflict are divided between east and west. The eastern faction is represented by a parliament based in Tobruk and the western faction is the High Council of State, based in the Libyan capital Tripoli. As distance from the original elections has increased, violence has similarly escalated. Armed militias from both the east and the west have engaged in violent clashes, undermining movement towards diplomatic resolution. Additionally, the storming of the eastern parliament building in Toburk drew attention from countries across the world, leading to increased calls for an understanding to be reached during conversations hosted by the United Nations.
Although many compromises have been made in both Cairo and Geneva, the eligibility of the candidates has meant that the two parties have reached a stalemate. If a resolution is not reached in the near future, there may be dire consequences for the Libyan people. The violent clashes are not only hindering peace talks, but also drastically impacting the quality of life in Libya. They have led to a precipitous decline in living conditions and a financial crisis, due to the political actions of the Libyan elite, who have opted to shut down oil facilities in attempts to undermine Prime Minister Dbeibah. It is also likely that Prime Minister Bashagha will attempt to seize power once again. Indeed, Bashaga took the oath of office in March of this year and asserted that he was committed to exploring all paths available to ensure he takes power. It is imperative that peace talks continue, and every effort is made to continue to secure compromises between the factions. The Libyan people have several other systemic issues to address, which can only be effectively done once electoral issues have been settled. According to a report by the United Nations Security Council, the rights of women have been slowly eroded in the nation with women finding it increasingly difficult to participate in the public sphere. Additionally, economic inequality has been exacerbated by international boycotts of Libyan oil, which has resulted in 3.1 billion dollars in lost revenue, a devastating blow to the Libyan economy.
Updates on imminent discussions should soon follow the failure of the talks in Geneva, hopefully pushing Libya closer to electoral and constitutional understandings. The lives of Libyan people, who overwhelmingly support fair and free elections in Libya, depend on it.
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