The change at the top of the High Council of State, the "Senate" of the Libya, strengthens the position of the Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity (GUN) of Tripoli, Abdulhamid Dabaiba, and distances the prospect of elections in the short term: there will certainly not be a vote in 2023 as hoped for by the United Nations. Muhammad Takala, 57, originally from Khums, 120 kilometers east of Tripoli, yesterday beat Khaled al Mishri, the outgoing president of the "upper house" essential for the most important decisions and appointments, by just five votes out of 131.
Thus one of the leaders of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood and, above all, one of the fiercest opponents of the prime minister of Tripoli leaves the scene. Libyan sources confirmed to "Agenzia Nova" that the premier had been maneuvering for days to prevent a re-election of Mishri. The latter had allied with Aguila Saleh, the speaker of the House of Representatives (the lower branch of the parliament based in the east), to install a new mini-government tasked with leading the country to elections. In his first statements as newly elected president, Takala said he wanted to work for the elections, without mentioning a government dossier. “Agenzia Nova” asked for the opinion of three experts: Tarek Megerisi, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (Ecfr); Claudia Gazzini, senior analyst of the International Crisis Group (ICG); Jalel Harchaoui, associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.
According to Megerisi, the change in the High Council of State could sharpen the divisions between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, respectively the eastern and western regions. “This election is expected to mark the end of the close relationship between the Council of State and the House of Representatives over the past two years,” Megerisi explains. Takala's victory, according to the Ecfr researcher, would bring Tripoli's "Senate" closer to Prime Minister Dabaiba's office, at the same time deepening the divisions between East and West. This is because, according to Megerisi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Saleh, "will certainly look for a way to continue carrying out his plans" which include, in particular, the appointment of a new unified government in place of the Gun. “The new president was apparently sponsored by Dabaiba and that definitely helped him win votes. The prime minister can exert influence not only through money and access to government funds as an incentive, but also through fear. There have been cases in the past of harassment of state councilors before major events attributed to the prime minister,” adds Megerisi. "Mishri's traditional base, the Islamist camp, has split and Mishri has not been able to reunite it to secure a new mandate," comments Megerisi, saying he is realistic about the possibility that the country can organize presidential and parliamentary elections. “At this point the path to election is more like the road to perdition. The existing political structure is deeply rotten, completely unable to move Libya forward, only able to collapse on itself. This consolidation by Dabaiba means that all the initiative, and hope, is in the hands of the United Nations envoy, Abdoulaye Bathily, for any new impetus towards change”, concludes the Ecfr expert.
On the other hand, Gazzini's opinion of the International Crisis Group is more cautious. According to the Italian analyst, in fact, it is still early to say what the new president of the High Council of State will do and to indicate him as a man close to the current prime minister Dabiaba is premature, as well as simplistic. “I know Takala, he is a serious person. Until a few days ago, he supported the idea of launching a new unitary government and in February 2022 he was among the signatories in support of the candidacy of Fathi Bashagha to lead a new executive, but then the Council of State withdrew the support ”, reports Gazzini. According to the broadcaster "Sky News Arabia", Takala yesterday defeated Al Mishri in the second round thanks to the votes of the political forces that support the current prime minister Dabaiba. In February 2021, Takala was among the supporters of the latter's appointment to lead the country's government, which would later be called the Government of National Unity. However, a year later, he also supported the installation of a new Bashagha National Stability Government.
According to Harchaoui, it is above all Mishri's departure from the scene, rather than Takala's inauguration, that "strengthens Prime Minister Dabaiba's position", while the ratification of the new electoral laws by the two chambers is now "more unlikely". "Many Libyans indicate that Takala has friendly relations with Dabaiba", comments Harchaoui, underlining that for the premier it is still a victory since "Mishri will cease to exist politically". Furthermore, added Harchaoui, the newly elected president Takala will need time to study all the files of the State Council, in particular as regards the 6+6 committee (i.e. made up of six "senators" and as many members of the House of Representatives ) to draft electoral laws. “More months will be wasted. This will put the special representative of the United Nations, Abdoulaye Bathily, in the awkward position of having to wait for the new president, who could come up with a new subterfuge to further postpone the electoral process”, concludes the expert.