Politics & Economics

Who are the main political actors in Libya?

Middle East

With the conflict entering its 8th year, the main political actors in Libya are trying to reach a settlement which has the potential to be the solution to the crisis. The latest attempt was done by France in cooperation with other countries.

Four Libyan leaders came together in the French capital of Paris on Tuesday and announced their commitment to hold national elections, which have been scheduled for December 10th. But who are these leaders and what is the current state of Libya’s fractured political scene?

Since the summer of 2014, Libya has been split between two rival governments in the east and west of the country. In western Libya lies the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is presided over by the Presidential Council led by Fayez Sarraj, who was one of the four attendees at the meeting in Paris. Based in Tripoli since March 2016, the GNA is backed by international actors such as the United Nations.

In eastern Libya lies the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR). According to the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), which was signed in Skhirat in Morocco in 2015 and forms the basis of political activity in the country, the HoR should endorse the GNA, but this has not happened on two occasions. Instead, the HoR has endorsed the powers operating in Bayda, also located in eastern Libya, and led by Abdullah al-Thinni.

The Tobruk and Bayda-based authorities are aligned with the Libyan General, Khalifa Haftar, who leads the Libyan National Army (LNA). Haftar, who attended the meeting in Paris, is widely perceived as the major power-holder in eastern Libya, despite the rumours of his health after suffering from a recent stroke.

Among the other two leaders present in Paris were Aguila Saleh Issa, the speaker of the HoR, and Khalid al-Mishri, the recently appointed head of the High Council of State (HCS), an advisory body to the GNA and HoR, and a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya-affiliated Justice and Construction Party. One further centre of power lies with Khalifa Ghwell, the Prime Minister of the Government of National Salvation, although this is an increasingly waning actor in Libya.

These actors came together amidst increasing international pressure to find a political solution to the conflict. In December last year, Haftar announced the end of the Skhirat agreement given the LPA’s two-year expiration much to the indignation from international actors.

Since that time, numerous initiatives have been led by a variety of sides to bring the seven-year Libyan crisis to an end. Earlier this month,  Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia held a tripartite meeting in Tunis to discuss the ongoing issues. While at the end of April, the Arab League, the African Union, the European Union, and the United Nations held their fourth meeting in Cairo to affirm their support for the United Nations Action Plan for Libya.

The four figures, who represent a significant proportion of Libya’s rival factions, agreed to “accept the results of elections, and ensure appropriate funds and strong security arrangements are in place”.

Many leaders in neighbouring countries see stabilising Libya as imperative in tackling regional and trans-regional threats, especially pertaining to extremist groups such as ISIS. The restoration of stability would also begin to reverse some of the immense destruction witnessed internally in Libya, with some observers estimating that $130 billion has been lost since 2011 as a result of the ongoing crisis.