This is an excerpt from an article in our weekly Libya Politics & Security publication.
Signatories to the UN-mediated 11 July peace agreement in Libya are pressing ahead with the difficult task of putting together an acceptable list of candidates to fill the proposed National Unity Government.
Even in less polarised times, government formation in Libya has rarely gone smoothly. In the autumn of 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood-leaning Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushaghur was forced to resign after he was unable to put together a cabinet acceptable to the General National Congress. But there are a few individuals mentioned in passing that could have large and influential enough constituencies to help right Libya’s transitional trajectory.
In addition to the dialogue participant Abu Bakr Buera and the Libyan ambassador to the UAE Aref Nayed, both from the House of Representatives’ side in the conflict, potential candidates considered for top positions within the GNA include Salem Joha and Fawzi Abdel Aal. Both individuals are influential and moderate Misratans, and could therefore play an important role in bringing elements within the city (which has lent its support to the Islamist side and the rival Congress) towards accepting the peace proposal. There is a rumour that Misrata will get to choose the first deputy prime minister from among its community.
Joha is a former militia commander from a powerful family in Misrata. He is close to Ambassador Nayed, but widely trusted among both Libya Dawn and Operation Dignity followers. Abdel Aal is a former minister of interior and ambassador to Bahrain.
At the same time, there are also rumours that the former Congress president Mohamed Al-Magarief may return to lead the GNA. Al-Magarief resigned from the Congress in 2013 amid poor health and declining popular support for the Congress. He also clashed often with then-prime minister Ali Zeidan, appearing to overstep his legislative mandate in the absence of clear delineation of powers.
These are good candidates with a combination of experience working in complex environments and popular support, but whether they will be acceptable to the polarised dialogue participants is another question. UN Special Envoy Bernardino Leon estimates that it will take two to three weeks to put together a government if good names are put forward. Given Leon’s overly optimistic estimates for dialogue progress in the past, it is likely that government formation will take longer.