Libya: Green Light for Dabaiba Candidacy at Upcoming Elections? 

Fatima Badri
Tunisian Journalist

Ever since the date for the Libyan elections was set the air has been filled with controversy. The UN decision to seemingly support Dabaiba’s presidential candidacy confirms the suspicion that when Dabaiba was presented as head of the interim government, he was in fact put forward as the man for the next stage. 

The Libyan presidential and parliamentary elections are set to take place on December 24, yet a number of often interconnected developments could very well change the course of the process. 

First of all, the Presidential Council is preparing an initiative that some people believe will only increase the chance of postponing the elections to March 2022. 

This coincides with the appearance of a “urgent and secret” report, which has been attributed to Libyan intelligence and states that Abdel Hamid Dabaiba, Prime Minister of the Interim Government of National Unity, held a meeting in the city of Misurata, which was attended by numerous local notables and armed faction leaders.  

Reportedly, Dabaiba announced his intention to run in the presidential elections and has allocated $70 million to reach his goal. Dabaiba has not denied the report. This furthermore coincides with the United Nations (UN) pressuring the Libyan parliament to amend the electoral law in a way that appears to suit Dabaiba, who is well prepared and as such has a very good chance of winning the presidential elections.

Unconfirmed reports also revealed that Dabaiba has assigned his deputy, Ramadan Abu Janah al-Hasnawi, to take care of his tasks as Prime Minister, while he prepares to announce his candidacy for the elections in December. 

This puts the country in the orbit of two scenarios. The first intends not to delay the elections, while ensuring that Dabaiba is the best candidate who can block the more controversial names nominated for the presidency.  Secondly, if the parliament decides not to amend the electoral law, the Presidential Council will delay the elections, so Dabaiba can present himself according to the conditions laid down in the current law.

Ever since the date for the Libyan elections was set, about a year ago, the air has been filled with debate and controversy. And it seems disagreement and dispute will only exacerbate if Dabaiba will indeed run for the presidency.

This step should not come as a complete surprise seeing the media attention the man has enjoyed in terms of him promotion himself, his projects, his ideas, which all need a long time to be implemented, and his attempts to lure the Libyan citizen to his side.

But the UN decision to support him raises suspicion, and seemingly confirms the theory that the international community has deceived the Libyans from the start: when Dabaiba was appointed as head of the interim government, he was in fact chosen to be the man for the next stage. 

Several considerations back up this claim. When it was confirmed that Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and Gaddafi’s son Saif-el-Islam were determined to run for the presidential elections, none of the countries sponsoring the political process in Libya took the initiative to reject them explicitly, yet the talk continued that the country’s next president must be a consensus candidate who enjoys the support of all Libyans.

Meanwhile, Dabaiba used his position to win citizen support by tackling issues close to their heart, such as distributing the country’s vast wealth among its people. Dabaiba asserted this was his goal. 

To show his seriousness, he put forward several initiatives, including providing significant sums of money to the country’s youth, and he was not prevented from disbursing them. When parliament tried to reduce the chaos in state expenditure by withdrawing confidence from Dabaiba, there was international pressure on the parliament not to do so. 

Meanwhile Dabaiba tried to take advantage of the situation with his speeches – inviting people to support him, making promises – in what very much looked like an early election campaign. Indeed, it seems that Dabaiba has received international permission to use his position and authority to promote himself as the long-awaited leader of Libya. So, when he officially announces his candidacy, he will be the candidate ready and able to block the path of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who does not enjoy the approval of such countries as the US and Turkey.

Dabaiba has succeeded in fueling a media machine that is interested in passing on the image of him as a leader who is acceptable to all countries and understands the concerns of all Libyans, without focusing on internal differences and his failure to reach out to important parts of the country, especially the eastern provinces.

Important is that the man is ready to come to an economic understanding by ensuring that all stakeholders are given an ample share of the Libyan cake, which is the main reason for the interest and intrusion of international forces in the Libyan conflict, even though they all claim to operate in the interests of the Libyan people.

When the parliament announced the election law a few weeks ago, there were many objections. The law was said to be tailored for Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, which sparked great controversy. Yet, at that time, no individual countries nor the international community intervened. 

It was also said that the matter was delegated to the parliament and the High National Elections Commission. Now, as the time to announce Dabaiba’s candidacy has come, the UN has taken the initiative to push for amending the electoral law in a way that suits him. This has not been explicitly acknowledged, but it is clear by looking at the required amendment. 

Article 12 of the Presidential Elections Law states that a presidential candidate must resign from his job three months before the elections, which are scheduled for December 24.  

The proposed amendment states that “every citizen, whether civilian or military, shall be deemed to have stopped working and from exercising his duties when the commission announced the start of the electoral process for a period of three months.”

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