Dual power returned to Libya
The House of Representatives — the Libyan parliament, located in the east in the city of Tobruk — has elected the country’s new prime minister, while the current head of government, Abdel-Hamid Dbeiba, remains in his post in Tripoli, refusing to leave.
Fathi Bashaga, ex-Minister of the Interior of the Government of National Unity, became the new prime minister. More recently, he opposed the Eastern Libyan elites, led by General Khalifa Haftar, during the battle for Tripoli in 2020. Now, the eastern Libyan parliament elects him as prime minister with the full support of Haftar and his “Libyan National Army”.
In addition, the eastern elites began to stir up the situation, and intensified the information campaign against Dbeiba, pedaling the topic of his government’s corruption. The conflict between Tripoli and Tobruk reproduced the division of Libya into two camps, and threw the situation back to 2018–2020. The election of Fathi Bashagi to the post of prime minister restores dual power in Libya, but with new political inputs.
In the east of Libya, a separate government has been formed, headed by the pro-Turkish-Qatari Bashaga, with the support of the Haftar-Saleh tandem, backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. Abdel-Hamid Dbeiba, who enjoys the support of part of the West and the United States, refuses to leave his post before the elections, and remains in Tripoli. Each side has its own advantages.
On the side of Dbeiba, of course, legitimacy. Regardless of the accusations of vote buying, he was elected according to the procedure in full, and this decision was supported by all major internal and external forces. In addition, his mandate, according to the decision of the Forum, clearly states that his term of office will end only after elections are held in Libya. Moreover, he has the heads of the Central Bank and the National Oil Corporation on his side, which gives the head of government access to serious financial resources, thanks to which he can “gift” people and receive popular support. Finally, his power resource is ties to some of the powerful armed groups in Tripoli that Dbeiba has established contact with in recent months. In other words, he also has “trunks”.
On the side of the eastern elites, there are serious power resources — Haftar’s LNA units, as well as parts of groups loyal to Bashaga from Western Libya. In addition, the new situational alliance in the east is able to win over other tribes and clans, and also enjoys the support of many regional countries. In the event of consolidated actions and successful agreements with part of the Western Libyan elites, they may have a chance to remove Dbeiba and his GNU from Tripoli.
In many respects, external alignments will also influence the situation. Today, we can say with confidence that the new government of Bashagi-Salekh in the east will be supported by Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, France, Turkey, Qatar, Britain. The position of Israel is incomprehensible, to which, by the way, both Haftar and Dbeiba secretly visited last year with a request for help, recognition in exchange for establishing diplomatic relations and a piece of the market.
However, the truce was not broken. The parties are in no hurry to destroy what allowed them to play their games in peace. At the same time, the launch of the political process and a breakthrough in the negotiations does not at all mean the end of the conflict, and from the phase of post-conflict settlement.