The rival leaders of Libya, a departure point for thousands of refugees to Europe, agree to election plan


In a summit in France on Tuesday the 30th of May, the rival factions of Libya, a country with an estimate of 43,113 refugees according to the UN from which 90 percent cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, agreed to hold parliamentary and presidential elections. The summit was hosted by the French president Emmanuel macron, who called the summit ‘historic’. However, others raised critical questions about the breakthrough of the conference.


Situation in Libya

In 2011, a NATO-backed revolt overthrew ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Since then Libya has been in a state of chaos. After the elections in 2014, the country has been divided in competing factions and political groups.

After the fall of Gaddafi, many armed groups emerged. According to the BBC the estimate of theamount of such militias is 1700.

Currently, there are two parlements and three governments that can be distinguished in Libya. The last government was formed in the hope of replacing the other two.

An agreement as a step towards reconciliation

The French president Macron organised a summit inviting the different leaders to sit around the table. The leaders from the rival Tripoli and Tobruk-parliaments agreed to work towards elections in december and to adopt the necessary laws by mid-September. Emmanuel Macron calles the meeting an ‘essential step towards reconciliation’.

The United Nations has been leading an effort to unify the country and organise national elections. There were UN-representatives present at the meeting. The UN stated: “The meeting recognized the importance of developing a constitutional basis for elections and support for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ghassan Salamé, as he consults with Libyan authorities on a proposal and timeline for adopting the constitution.” The Libyan actors will work constructively with the United Nations to realize the elections by 10 December 2018.

Is the election plan a breakthrough?

Others were less enthousiastic. The agreement was verbal and nothing was signed.

“While the optics of this meeting are very encouraging, there is no breakthrough here,” said Riccardo Fabiani, geopolitical analyst at UK-based Energy Aspects, an independent research consultancy. He added: “There is once again just a promise to solve the problems through dialogue and a timeframe that looks quite unrealistic.”

While represetatives from 20 different countries attended the meeting, important and pouwerful militia groups from Western Libya were not present. Various groups also issued a statement ahead of the meeting, denouncing the Paris summit and saying it did not represent them.

According to Fabiani, the absence of these armed groups is a major setback for working towards a democracy. “It is one thing to get the main political leaders to agree to a roadmap and quite another to get people who control the territory (militias, municipalities, tribal and ethnic groups) to support it.” He said.  “Without the latter, the former is just an empty promise to please the international community.”