WorldLibya: The non-adoption of the budget, a sword of Damocles over the...

Libya: The non-adoption of the budget, a sword of Damocles over the head of the government and the elections (Analysis)

AA / Istanbul
A new relapse in the process of rebuilding the Libyan state after the failure of Parliament to adopt the budget for the fifth time in a row, as the country is shaken by the repeated crisis of the interruption of electricity , which places the government of National Union in front of delicate challenges.
After four days of the failure of the Political Dialogue Forum, held in Geneva, Switzerland, to adopt a constitutional rule on the basis of which the elections will be held, preceded by the failure to reopen to traffic the coastal road connecting the is in the west of the country, the Chamber of Deputies in turn fails to adopt the budget submitted for its consideration by the government.
About four months have passed since Parliament formally invested the Government of National Union led by Abdelhamid Dbeibeh has not been enough to pass the budget, although it is a necessary tool, being linked to the management of the affairs of the state, to the satisfaction of the needs of the citizens, particularly with regard to the payment of salaries, in addition to the reconstruction of what was destroyed by the war and the financing of the preparations for the next elections .

– Formal reasons which conceal the truth

In view of the reasons mentioned and conveyed by a number of parliamentarians, the majority of whom are loyal to the retired general, Khalifa Haftar, these are formal remarks relating to “the law on which the government relied on allocate the budget and the amounts of funds allocated to certain sectors and departments, along with the fact that the budget objectives have not been developed according to clear programs and projects and in the absence of additional and alternative resources to finance the budget “.
However, the real reason behind the obstacles and pitfalls in the way of the adoption of the draft budget is different. This is a political reason for Dbeibeh’s refusal to submit to the authority of Haftar, who has not yet met him, and to allocate funds to his militias.
In addition, members of the Political Dialogue Forum, from the western region of the country, refused to repeal the conditions that prevent Haftar from running for president, in particular, dual nationality, membership military and especially human rights violations and abuses.
In addition, Haftar calls for the completion of the process of distributing appointments to sovereign positions, foremost among which is that of governor of the Central Bank by appointing a personality, whose loyalty is guaranteed.
Nevertheless, the Head of Government was clear in his rejection of submitting to Haftar, when he stressed, in response, live, to questions from citizens, that “it is not possible that we are under the authority of any internal party which is supported from the outside and which receives foreign funds, parties which fight against us and which start wars here in Libya ”.

– Government concessions

For his part, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Kotrani, considered to be close to Haftar, spoke of Dbeibeh’s about-face and stressed the importance of “paying the salaries” of Haftar’s militias.
This is a dangerous statement, particularly, if it does manage to materialize, as the government has yielded to part of Haftar’s demands without him submitting to his legal and legitimate authority.
Dbeibeh himself referred to the transfer of the headquarters of the Financial Market to the city of Benghazi as well as the consideration of the transfer of the headquarters of the National Oil Company and the Libyan Airline to the eastern city of the country, which is subject to the absolute authority of Haftar, and this within the framework of new concessions offered to pass the budget. Nevertheless, and despite this, Dbeibeh did not achieve his goal.
The budget has now become a tool of pressure in the hands of Aguila Salah, president of the chamber of deputies, with a view to subduing the government of Dbeibeh and the western region of the country, and to wrest more concessions from them, while at the same time making all the failures assume responsibility for the acute crisis of power disruption, despite the fact that the government lacks the cash flow to deal with these problems.
The pressure exerted on the Head of Government was not limited to the Chamber of Deputies but extended to the attempt by some Haftar supporters to block his road and to the delegation accompanying him while holding up the portraits and posters. of the general retired in one of the streets of the city.
Dbeibeh had left Tobruk without achieving his goal of having the draft budget adopted by Parliament. Despite this, there is still a chance next Monday to pass the budget, when the chamber of deputies meets again to vote on the text, according to parliament spokesman Abdallah Bliheq.
The number of deputies supporting the government is greater than Aguila Salah’s group, but the latter often finds a way to hinder sessions that do not serve its interests.

– Ammunition crates as a threat

At the same time, parties loyal to Haftar were launching media campaigns on social networks against Dbeibeh and urging the chamber of deputies not to adopt the draft budget, so much so that the journalist, Mahmoud Misrati, a relative of Haftar, said called to prepare to root out and uproot Dbeibeh via “one of the two crates”. He was referring to the ballot boxes for elections or to the munitions and war coffers.
Misrati added: “The painful solution through ammunition crates has become a legitimate option.”
This speech is consistent with that conveyed by the same journalist who quoted Haftar: “If we do not reach a solution, know that your armed forces (the militias) are ready once again to liberate the capital”.
The threats made by Haftar’s militias to resume fighting constitute an unprecedented escalation since the conclusion of a ceasefire agreement on October 23, 2020, with the main objective of increasing pressure on western Libya to place him in a dilemma, that of accepting Haftar as a presidential candidate, and without any preconditions, or of resuming the war.

– Government options

Faced with the obstacles set up by Parliament on the way to the adoption of the draft budget, calls are multiplying to the government to bypass the legislative institution and go directly to the Presidential Council and the Central Bank in order to ” obtain the necessary funds for the implementation of its program.
Indeed, the approach followed by Haftar and Aguila Salah does not indicate that the budget will be adopted in the near future. Worse yet, their most likely choice is to weaken the government and make it even more fragile, or even aim for its downfall, especially since the legal age of this government is currently less than six months, due to end with the organization of the elections on December 24th.
This period seems very short, as the peak of the summer season approaches with its share of resurgence of the electricity crisis facing the government.
Recall that the electricity crisis had pushed the Libyans to invest heavily in the streets of the country, last summer, whether in the east or the west, or even in the south of the country. At the time, this episode almost brought about the fall of the Entente and Provisional governments.
Aguila and Haftar are reportedly working to push Dbeibeh’s government to the brink of precipice and collapse, even before its December 24 term expires.
Faced with this scenario, the notables of the eastern region and politicians and many activists in the western region of the country have launched calls to reactivate the Political Accord and to override the Chamber of Deputies in s ‘addressing the Presidential Council and the Central Bank directly to obtain the funds entered in the budget, as did the Consensus government when Parliament blocked the adoption of the draft budget.
The deputy, Zied D’ghim said in this context: “No elections or funds allocated to the Higher National Electoral Commission without a budget”, calling on Dbeibeh to “be firm and demand to save his people who are suffering from the weightlessness of the ‘absurd’.
This scenario is risky, however, although it is the most realistic given Parliament’s procrastination in adopting the budget and the approach of the end of the government’s mandate.
Overshoots from the Chamber of Deputies could lead to a new crisis of legitimacy and a split in sovereignty institutions, in addition to the likelihood that Haftar’s militias will once again block oil fields and terminals, the main source of income for the government. ‘State, in particular, in foreign currency.
The situation could even result in withdrawing from the ceasefire agreement signed in Geneva and returning to the fighting again.
The room for maneuver available to Dbeibeh’s government is limited and this will require revealing the extent of the pressure exerted on the government in the face of public opinion to encourage it to mobilize against Aguila Salah and his group, or to resort to notables and leaders. tribes in the eastern region to mediate or exert pressure on the presidency of the chamber of deputies in order to free up the budget.
Likewise, the international community is in a position to play an active role in this matter through the reactivation of the mechanism of sanctions against Aguila Salah and Haftar, for their obstruction of the Political Agreement and of the elections as s’ happened in 2016.
The budget crisis is nothing more than a pressure card in the hands of Haftar to achieve his plan, that of gaining power through elections, or of taking this crisis as a pretext to extricate himself. of the Political Accord and to mobilize its military troops in the direction of the capital Tripoli in order to seize power.

* Translated from Arabic by Hatem Kattou

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