For more than two weeks, the political and social debate in Libya has focused on the identity of the next new interim prime minister who will have the crucial and difficult task of preparing the ground for fair and transparent national elections as well as ensuring the safe participation of Libyans in the electoral process. The topic has been raised mainly since the resumption of negotiations held at the Amsterdam Forest Hotel in August 2018, and was seriously dealt with during the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) hosted in Gammarth, on the outskirts of Tunisia’s capital, on November 9, 2020, under the auspices of the United Nations. The LPDF was the product of successive meetings held in Arab and Western capitals the aim of which was to discuss and drew up a future roadmap leading to designate a transitional government and democratic national elections thus restoring Libya's sovereignty and the democratic legitimacy of Libyan institutions. In the light of the dialogue forum’s outputs, a heated debate was raised on the future interim prime minister who will be granted wide powers during and after the transitional phase. Consequently, this paper will shed light upon the criteria for selecting the next prime minister. It will also list Potential candidates from the western as well as Eastern region.
Eligibility Criteria for the Next Prime Minister
The reunification of state institutions has been proposed even before Bouznika, during Morocco talks in Rabat between two Libyan delegations representing the House of Representatives (based in Tobruk) and the State Council (based in Tripoli). The proposal suggested a partial or total change of the Supreme State Council and the House of Representatives in terms of composition and powers. Under the deal, a nine-member presidential council will form a government, with the current eastern-based House of Representatives as the main legislature, and a State Council as a second consultative chamber. The presidential council will name a new government in a month and a U.N. Security Council resolution will endorse it. Foundations to kickstart the reunification of Libya were laid, specific names were discussed, and negotiations were conducted even before the announcement of governmental changes by Al-Sarraj on October 2018.
After the failure of the Haftar military attempt to seize the capital, efforts to stop the war through diplomatic channels have failed to take off; the ceasefire deal, inked in October, included having foreign forces and mercenaries leave Libya within three months but so far no progress has been made on that. Peace talks in Arab and international capitals reached an impasse as cease-fire had been entirely violated. Consequently, other alternatives and practical scenarios were presented. The process of restructuring the executive authority will be based; first, on the survival of the two legislative councils (the representatives and the supreme state) and a presidential one with a tripartite composition. Second, the significant role of the intra- Libyan dialogue committee and finally the nomination of a new prime minister will be part of the reconstruction process.
The 75-member forum represents the three main regions of old Libya: Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the east, and Fezzan in the south-west — each to be represented on the three-member presidential council. The prime minister is to be chosen by the candidate winning 70% of the votes. The 75 Libyan representatives to the LPDF consensually decided on eligibility criteria for the next prime minister; Twenty-one candidates are running for prime minister, including Fathi Bashaga, the powerful interior minister in Tripoli, and Ahmed Meitig, deputy prime minister of the UN-supported government.
According to the LPDF, a prime minister must meet the following requirements:
• Enjoys the support of international institutions and satisfies the major international and regional actors (Qatar-Turkish axis, UAE, Egyptian-Saudi axis, Algeria, Morocco, and neighboring countries).
• Be a consensual figure agreed upon by most of the social and political components, believing in the civil and democratic state and a proponent of the pro-revolutionary camp.
• Be chosen by the candidate winning 70% of votes.
The new prime minister should meet notable expectations in Tripoli, Zawiya, and Misurata consequently the outcome of the dialogue is more likely to choose one from the West. If the Libyan Dialogue Forum chooses a Prime Minister from the Eastern region, he must be accepted by the Dignity-Karama forces , and supported by the tribes of the East and Egypt (from the military institution in particular). If LPDF agrees on a candidate from the South, then it is most likely that he will be supported by France and receives the acceptance of the Seif al-Nasr family; the most prominent and revered leaders of the Awlad Sulieman tribe and their social allies.
Potential Candidates From The Western Region
Among the main candidates to head the government are the current Minister of Interior Fathi Bashagha, Deputy Chairman of the Presidential Council Ahmed Maiteeq, and two Misratan businessmen Abdulhamid Dabaiba and Mohammad al-Muntasir.
• Fathi Ali Bashagha: was born in Misurata. He was one of the most prominent leaders of the February Revolutionaries, a former pilot, a businessman, and general manager of a number of private companies. He is the current Minister of Interior in the Government of National Accord (GNA) . Bashagha is considered to be one of the most prominent candidates on account of his political competence and the significant role he played in emphasizing Libya’s unity and the rule of law. He is greatly admired in the region and the West including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and France, he is also supported by all parties like the Justice and Construction Party led by Muhammad Sawan.
• Ahmed Omar Maiteq: is the current vice-President of the Presidency Council, succeeded previously in re-introducing himself as a professional economist. Maiteeq was identified as an independent figure not affiliated with any political party or movement. During the Libyan Civil War, he took part in the fighting in Misrata and the liberation of Tripoli. He was a member of the Chamber for the Liberation of Tripoli during the conflict and a member of the Tripoli Development and Stability Council after the fall of the regime. He mediated an agreement with the GNA’s Volcano Forces to stop its advance towards Jufra and Sirte under the auspices of the Russian, Egyptian and Turkish sides. Maiteq is very close to international organizations, multinational companies, and some international monetary institutions, he is also Haftar’s supporter and ally.
• Abd al-Hamid al-Dabaiba: a politician, one of the prominent businessmen and development leaders passionate about change in his country. He is also the
founder of the “Libya’s Future” Movement and president of Libyan Investment and Development Company (LIDCO). He has implemented more than 45 projects such as airports, sports stadiums, and administrative buildings, and stretched out relations with a number of countries, such as Italy, Algeria, Russia and Turkey.
• Hafez Kaddour: The Chairman of the Tripoli-based Presidential Council, a Libyan ambassador to the European Union, and former ambassador to Italy. He has extensive foreign relations as a result of his previous and strong loyalty to the former Libyan regime. His closeness to Gaddafi enabled him to present himself as a prominent political actor and a special envoy in different missions.
• Othman Abdel-Jalil: is the former Minister of Education in the Government of National Accord who resigned in October 2019, and later headed the Crisis Committee in the Battle of Tripoli. He gained the support of some components of the Western Region especially his city Zintan. Despite political and social support among local actors, his chances to lead the next government are in tatters.
• Fadil Al-Amin: one of the most prominent opponents of the Gaddafi regime, worked and resided in America since the beginning of the 1980s, and chaired the preliminary Committee for the Libyan Political Dialogue in 2014. He was the first to propose the name Faiz Al-Sarraj during the Skhirat Dialogue. Despite his limited influence locally, he is a heavyweight political figure as he led the political team the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (DH) . Contrary to assumptions that play down his role in the scene, his chances of a blowout are high.
• Mohamed Al-Muntasir: is a Libyan businessman who represents the city of Misrata on the National Transitional Council supported from some political and social sides as well as regional actors mainly Maghreb countries. He had significant support from the pre-revolutionary elites or ‘Septemberians, “Daw Bedhawia” along with parties from the pro-revolutionary elites or Febrarians. He was also nominated more than once for a number of important portfolios, including Presiding over the government.
• Osama Kaabar: one of the most prominent faces of the Islamic trend that brought up Gaddafi, residing in Qatar. He has valuable administrative and professional experience.
Political activist Suliman Albayoudi said “The failure of the dialogue this time would mean going to the alternative plan. Accordingly, restoration of the presidential council and the designation by Sarraj of a separate prime minister are ready to be announced,” If Al-Sarraj leaves the Presidency Council it will be hard to reach any consensus. It is highly unlikely to appoint a character belonging to the present Presidential Council but it could be realized since the composition of the presidency is limited to a triple, then one of the outgoing presidential characters could be chosen.
Potential Candidates From the Eastern Region
Although the Eastern region has low chances to get the position of Prime Minister, two major leaders posted for the position: Muhammad Hassan Al-Barghati and Muhammad Mu'in al-Kikhia.
• Muhammad Hassan Al-Barghati: is the current Ambassador of Libya in Jordan. He was Libyan ambassador in Amman before the revolution, resigning just after it started, on 24 February 2011. According to a source at the embassy, his return was requested by Jordan’s King Abdullah who expressed confidence in his abilities. He was a friend of King Hussein and he extended international and regional relations.
• Muhammad Mu'in al-Kikhia: a Libyan academic and politician, a former member of the Libyan National Transitional Council as a city representative for Benghazi. A controversial figure deemed to be close to the United Kingdom and America as well as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the Saudi Arabian axis. Kikhia pushed a political initiative in the summer of 2019 from his semi-permanent residence in the Jordanian capital, and in practice, he will have the highest chance if Sarraj remains in power.
Finding a political way forward has been an issue of concern to the international community. The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) has been regarded as a genuine attempt to end the political deadlock and start a new era of political transition. The roadmap represents a rights-based process and responds to the hopes and demands expressed by the many Libyan stakeholders, groups and people the UN has engaged with throughout this process thus far.
Translated by the Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies
The Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies is a research institution covering a large regional territory, including the Maghreb, Africa and Mediterranean countries, with a focus on Tunisian affairs. The Center has two main headquarters in London and Tunisia.