After months of political deadlock among the key parties of Libya's interim General National Congress (GNC), its members on Feb. 4 approved a new plan for electing a constitution-drafting committee and setting deadlines and election dates, including a nationwide vote later this week. But can the temporary parliament and interim Prime Minister Ali Zeidan control the country's chaos enough to advance the transition in Libya?

Ali Zeidan. Photo by Jean-Marc Ferré; UN Geneva

The main provisions of the revised "roadmap" include:

  • Extending the mandate of the GNC beyond Feb. 7, when it was due to expire and when the formal national dialogue on a new constitution was to have ended.

  • Conducting an election on Feb. 20 to establish a new special committee that would be tasked with drafting a constitution within 120 days.

  • Calling for early elections if the special committee of 60 members fails to show progress by May in finalizing a draft constitution.

  • Allowing the GNC to continue work until December (no date specified) if the constitution-drafting committee is making progress, possibly providing enough time to finalize a new charter before elections are called by the scheduled time period of year's end.

  • Giving the electoral commission the authority to set the election dates.

  • Omitting any reference to a plan for a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.

In principle, this new development is a positive step toward addressing the long-standing tension among the various political parties in Libya – the National Forces Alliance, the Justice and Construction Party, and the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya.

The tension was fueled by the wave of instability sweeping Libya and compounded by the interim government's ineffective management and weak response to the crisis. A growing epidemic of organized crime, tribal clashes in the southern part of the country, and actions by armed groups to take control of oil and gas fields and facilities add to the mayhem.

Determining whether this next chapter in Libya could help accomplish a more peaceful transition raises a number of questions:

  • Will this political process be coupled with a comprehensive security plan to contain criminal activities and tribal clashes, such as in Tripoli or Benghazi or Sebha in the south?

    Some ad hoc measures have been taken, such as U.S. special operations forces assisting Libyan troops in fighting al-Qaida members in the South, particularly in Sebha. Zeidan also officially instructed the Libyan forces in early February to wrest three petroleum ports from the control of armed groups. Nevertheless, there has been no clear discussion on a strategy or plan for how to address Libya's overall security challenges.

  • The lack of reference in the GNC's amendment to a no-confidence vote might suggest a compromise after vocal calls in the parliament for Zeidan to resign and for early elections -- 99 GNC members expressed explicit dissatisfaction with Zeidan's management of the crisis but failed to gather the 122 votes they would have needed to win his resignation.

The new roadmap was adopted following a national shura, or conference, held in Zawiya on Feb. 1, calling for a new plan to address the crisis. The rationale of both the shura and the parliament-approved plan are similar, with differences mainly in the timeframe and in some specifics. The election to select the 60-member constitutional-drafting commission is scheduled for Feb. 20.

So the coming period might be considered a kind of "grace period" for Zeidan's government with a best-case scenario extending to December 2014 and a worst-case outcome forcing another major decision this coming May.

It will be important for Zeidan's government to show serious efforts toward achieving the results agreed upon in the roadmap. But the provisions are vague, leaving room for interpretation by political opponents amid the already-fraught divisions in Libya.

Darine El-Hage is a regional program officer in North Africa for USIP. Christina Murtaugh, a USIP senior program officer in the Rule of Law Center, contributed to this piece.

Related Publications

Libyan City, Primed for War, Answers Mother’s Plea with Peace Pact

Libyan City, Primed for War, Answers Mother’s Plea with Peace Pact

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

By: Nate Wilson; Abigail Corey

When Eaz Aldin Jaray was shot dead in September in the southern Libya city of Ubari, what initially followed was typical—unfortunately—of conflicts in the lawless region in the post-Qaddafi era. The trouble had begun after Jaray, a young member of the Tebu tribe, was accused of joining tribal confederates in taking weapons from a member of the Tuareg tribe. His killing, in turn, prompted Tebu youth to kidnap a Tuareg elder, which was followed by a reprisal snatch of two elders from the Tebu. As tensions mounted in the city, which had endured a tribal war five years ago, both the Tuareg and Tebu began stockpiling weapons and scouting strategic positions for a battle.

Type: Blog

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

Understanding Libya’s South Eight Years After Qaddafi

Understanding Libya’s South Eight Years After Qaddafi

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

By: Nate Wilson; Inga Kristina Trauthig

Sunday marked eight years since longtime Libyan dictator Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi was killed. In the post-2011 aftermath, another military man, Khalifa Haftar, has taken control over Libya’s east and much of its vast southern region, Fezzan. The battle for the capital, Tripoli, between Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), based in the east, and the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the west in Tripoli, has dominated international attention on Libya. But the stability of the south is all too often overlooked. The region is critical to U.S. interests and any effective policy must not only focus on achieving reconciliation between the east and west, but on building stability in Fezzan.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

To Help End a War, Call Libya’s Women Negotiators

To Help End a War, Call Libya’s Women Negotiators

Thursday, October 17, 2019

By: Palwasha L. Kakar

As Libya struggles to end an armed conflict that has only widened this year, it should turn to a hidden resource: the traditional peacemaking roles of its women. As in many countries facing warfare, women have long played a key role in negotiating or mediating conflicts within families, clans and local communities—but are overlooked by official institutions and peace processes. Amid Libya’s crisis, one such “hidden” peacemaker is Aisha al-Bakoush, a hospital nursing director who has expanded her healing mission from medical illnesses to armed conflict.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Peace Processes; Religion

View All Publications