Among the priorities of the recent Paris Declaration on Libya is the organization of elections. It seems that, like a magic wand, elections would be supposed to solve everything!
In this article, the idea of organizing elections in Libya in security, institutional and economic contexts absolutely not in phase with an electoral process. The 3 unavoidable challenges to be met if one does not want to end up in a situation where expensive elections will lead to nothing positive since the real problems are much deeper. It is not by throwing a bucket of paint on a collapsed house that it will be restored!
The Paris Declaration of May 29, 2018, which was obtained during the International Conference on Libya, is in the wake of a solution to the Libyan crisis. One of the key points of this political agreement is the organization of elections by December 10, 2018. The thrust of this approach is based on the argument that without elections, the Libyan crisis would continue. However, are elections in the current context a panacea for breaking the Libyan political impasse?
The precondition for organizing any election is security. But the pacification of the country is far from being a given because of the militias that abound in the country. The Misrata militia, the Zintan militia, the Sabratha coastal militia, control “gray” areas in the northern part and on the coast. In the south, Arab tribal groups, Toubou, Tuareg and Fezzana clash recurrently for access to resources and are involved in several illicit trafficking. Members of Al Qaeda, IS and other jihadist groups hunted from the east and Sirte have found refuge in the south. In addition, the presence of Chadian rebel factions (Front for Alternation and Concord in Chad, the Military Command for Salvation) and Sudanese Darfur (Sudan’s Minni Minawi Liberation Army, SLA-MM, the Movement for Equality and Justice, YWAM) who are trying to “survive” through financial aid, mercenarism or various forms of trafficking (criminal networks of contraband and human trafficking). The multiplicity and divergence of the interests of these factions increases the destabilization of Libya and makes the security situation in the South complex. These rebel groups are often recruited as mercenaries in the service of the two military blocs clashing in the Libyan theater (Marechal Haftar closer to the parliament of Tobruk and Faiez Sarraj, president of the government of “national unity”.
Elections have an essential role to play in the institutionalization of legitimate power, but they are organized without an inclusive agreement and are subject to challenge. Moreover, does the organization of these elections without the establishment of a new Constitution make sense? The Constitution is supposed to determine the responsibilities and prerogatives of elected officials, the architecture of power, the rights and freedoms of each other, etc. The goal is to prevent conflict, especially in an explosive context. In addition, the quality of these elections and their credibility are essentially based on the establishment of an effective, stabilized and legitimate administrative system (the electoral code, the party charter, the organization and financing procedures of the electoral campaign, etc.).
In some countries, the organization of elections was without the Constitution. However, such a process does not solve the fundamental issues in Libya: the legitimacy and the constitutional legality of the leaders, the distribution of powers and resources between the different actors of the conflict. The other possibility of relying on the old Constitution to organize these elections poses the risk of challenges from new actors in search of an eternal redistribution of the cards.
The main issue of the Libyan equation remains the redistribution of maps and resources between the political and sociological entities on the ground. The Tuareg tribes, the Arabs and the Fezzan Toubous who occupied a peripheral position in the management of the authorities of power want to change their status. Access to the power of minority groups to participate in decision-making processes is fundamental to the stability of the upcoming electoral process. Given that the control of the state apparatus guarantees access to strategic resources (oil, mines, etc.), all the actors of the crisis want to control the Libyan crescent. This explains the stubbornness with which the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) want control of the oil terminals currently under the control of Marshal Khalifa Haftar. The loss of elections thus induces a downgrading for the losers who tend to be excluded from the public bonanza. Also, losing in elections is similar to a military defeat. Yet the Paris Declaration has not provided for a gentleman agreement around the issue of resource allocation to prevent the winner of the elections from taking everything.
It is certain that many people in Libya will want to preserve the old structures in order to retain their patronage and power, which will make it difficult for new players to turn the tide. The economic plans as implemented by Gaddafi, through its Green Paper and its heritage management of the country may be a blockade to any reform in depth. A small circle enjoying the confidence of the power reached the highest decision levels. This gave rise to elaborate channels for the distribution of economic largesse and prebends. Resistance is to be expected among the beneficiaries of the distribution. Also, a defeat in the elections will be experienced as a loss of these prebends. So, in the absence of strong and credible institutions that ensure equitable access and distribution of resources, especially to election losers, there is a strong chance that the spiral of violence may continue. The risk is to increase fractures and divisions. Therefore, before any elections, it will be necessary to put in place a Constitution that will guarantee the participation of minority groups in the new government, parity in recruitment to the high office and the redistribution of income from strategic resources (oil, minerals).
The emergence of a new government will allow for a number of adjustments, but precipitous or ill-timed electoral deadlines can create confusion and fuel conflict. The legitimacy of the entity in charge of its organization and the acceptance of the final verdict by all parties would be the main stumbling blocks.