Libya’s interim executive authority is under a host of pressures that could have unpredictable consequences on the transition process.
Nobody knows whether the snags it faces are the result of attempts to force Dbeibah to make concessions to political actors, especially after the statements he made regarding his relationship with Turkey.
The statements also displayed communication flaws in Dbeibah’s strategy and his media team’s approach. But there have been questions about possible local and international attempts to prevent the elected authority from assuming power.
Dbeibah, who was elected by the members of the Libya Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) on February 6, struggles to obtain the needed vote of confidence for his government, even if he has two options in pursuit of that vote: either to go through parliament or the Dialogue Forum.
Dbeibah is aware of the danger which the bribery allegations could pose for his ability to accede to power. The accusations are personally directed at him of buying the votes of the members of the Dialogue Forum. To silence the accusations, he hastened to issue a statement in which he defended the “integrity” of the procedure through which the new authority was elected.
Before the issue of bribing members of the Dialogue Forum arose anew, it was expected that parliament, which had previously rejected the Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, would endorse the new government, not for the sake of Dbeibah, but to save itself from irrelevance. Its failure to convene a parliament session and grant confidence to Dbeibah’s cabinet would have meant, in one way or another, the end of its role and the emergence of the Dialogue Forum, which enjoys legislative powers, as the alternative.
On Monday, Dbeibah’s office said he was “monitoring attempts to undermine the process of forming a government and obstruct the process of approving it, by spreading rumours and false reports.”
The statement asserted the “integrity of the process through which the new authority was selected, in full transparency, as witnessed by Libyans.”
“We assure the Libyan people that the first stage of the roadmap will soon be completed” with a confidence vote in parliament to approve the government, Dbeibah said.
He stressed that “the presidency of the national unity government looks forward to fulfilling its pledges and obligations towards the Libyan people in order for it to be a government that represents all Libyans and preserves their dignity and rights inside the country and abroad.”
In a report set to be presented to the Security Council in March, UN experts found that during the Tunisia talks, two participants “offered bribes of between $150,000 to $200,000 to at least three LPDF participants if they committed to vote for Dbeibah as PM.”
He also made clear that he is betting on the awareness and maturity of the Libyan people and their understanding of the extent of the challenges and obstacles facing the process of unifying institutions and achieving reconciliation as a step towards the success of the current political stage.
In one of the report’s passages, the experts say that one delegate “erupted in anger in (the) lobby of the Four Seasons hotel in Tunis on hearing that some participants may have received up to… $500,000 for their Dbeibah votes, whereas he had only received $200,000.”
The report was prepared by UN experts tasked with examining breaches of an international arms embargo on the North African nation.
Dbeibah, a billionaire from the western city of Misrata, has not yet named his cabinet and must win a vote of confidence from Libya’s parliament by March 19.
But the parliament speaker has said the legislature will convene on March 8 to discuss the vote of confidence.
On March 8, the House of Representatives is supposed to hold a session in the city of Sirte to approve the new government. To pass, the vote of confidence requires the presence of 114 representatives and the approval of 84 (two-thirds + 1).
However, voices are calling for the voting session to be postponed until after March 15, when the results of the UN investigation into allegations of bribery are known.
Some MPs hinted at their possible refusal to grant their vote of confidence to the Dbeibah government. Among them, Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh, who called on the head of the national unity government to take into account the representation of the various regions in the cabinet, a request which sounded like an implicit rejection of the lineup Dbeibah submitted last Thursday to parliament.
Some do lend much importance to the pressures to which Dbeibah is subjected and see the pressures as serving the interests of some of the MPs. There is also a theory according to which the issue of bribery has been brought up in UN circles to satisfy a number of countries that are wary of Debeibah assuming power. Among these countries are France and Egypt, which have wagered on the selection of Aguila Saleh as the president of the presidential council and Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha as prime minister.
Parliament member Muhammad al-Abani said, “I do not expect the quorum of the house of representatives session to be attained unless Dbeibah satisfies the greedy representatives, and they are many. There among them those who want a position for themselves, although article 177 of the house of representatives’s bylaws promulgated by law no. 4 of 2014 does not allow it.”
“Some want a position for a brother, a member of the family, or an in-law. Others want a position for a member of their electoral district or a geographical region.”
Analysts believe that part of the pressure on Dbeibah is due to communication errors he made since the announcement of his election as prime minister.
Analysts point out that his first media appearance was with the Turkish Anadolu news agency. During the interview, he confirmed his close ties to Turkey. He reiterated this during a press conference he held after submitting his lineup to parliament.
Dbeibah said during the press conference that he does not intend to cancel controversial agreements with Turkey that prompted some MPs, led by National Security Committee Member Ali al-Takbali, to announce their refusal to grant him their vote of confidence,
Dbeibah’s answers reflected a certain level of communication ineptitude, as it would have better served him to keep a low profile until his government obtained the MPs’ confidence and assumed its duties. Almost any systems would have been contentious in Libya’s highly polarised political environment.
The issue of bribery was first raised last November by the former acting head of the UN mission, Stephanie Williams, who confirmed that the mission would open an investigation into such allegations. This provoked businessman Ali Dbeibah, Abdul Hamid’s cousin and supporter, who called on the UN mission to disclose the results of the investigation.
At the time, Ali Dbeibah said, “We are participating in the dialogue with heads raised to serve Libya, and we cannot make mistakes. What was said is unfounded.”
Observers do not rule out the existence of local and international efforts to exploit the issue of bribery to impede Dbeibah ‘s assumption of power, especially in light of the ambiguity of the US position about him.
Observers base their analysis on the efforts Williams is said to have made to ensure the victory of the Bashagha-Saleh ticket.
These observers believe that the United States, along with France and Egypt, wagered on the selection of Saleh and Bashagha. The winning formula, namely that of Dbeibah – Mohammad Menfi, was the end product of a Turkish-Russian consensus.
On Tuesday, activists on social media circulated news of the evacuation of vital areas in Sirte and Al-Jufrah from Wagner company mercenaries, which refutes the hypothesis of a Russian rejection of the new authority.
“I think the enthusiasm for the Dbeibah government in New York and Washington is waning,” said US-based Libyan political analyst Mohamed Buisier.