Factbox-The legitimacy crisis in Libya's political institutions

·3 min read
Protesters set fire to the Libyan parliament building after protests against the failure of the government in Tobruk

(Reuters) - Libyan protesters want the political authorities to quit and hold elections after previous transitional periods created institutions that clung on long after their mandates expired.

Here are Libya's main political institutions that have so far failed to overcome entrenched differences between rival authorities in the east and west of the country, a divide that emerged after the 2011 toppling of autocrat Muammar Gaddafi.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Libya's House of Representatives was elected in 2014 as the national parliament with a four-year mandate to oversee a transition to a new constitution prepared by another elected body.

But the legitimacy of the 2014 election was disputed and the previous legislature refused to hand over power, accelerating a split between warring factions in the east and west of Libya.

The Libyan Political Agreement in 2015 brought international recognition for the House of Representatives as the legitimate parliament, the High State Council as the consultative second chamber and the interim Government of National Accord (GNA).

But the deal did not stop the fighting and the House of Representatives stayed in the eastern city of Tobruk, where speaker Aguila Saleh and most of its members backed a parallel government in the east.

Critics of the House of Representatives say its mandate and legitimacy have expired and accuse Saleh of abusing parliamentary rules to push his own agenda. Saleh denies this.

HIGH STATE COUNCIL

The High State Council is drawn from members of Libya's first transitional parliament elected in 2012. Its leaders rejected the legitimacy of the 2014 election.

Under the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement, the High State Council was a consultative second chamber with an advisory role.

Any major constitutional changes or new governments were expected to require agreement by both chambers to secure international backing.

Critics say the High State Council lacks popular legitimacy and say its head, Khaled al-Meshri, has acted on behalf of Islamist groups who were dismayed at losing the 2014 election and sought to hang onto power. Meshri denies this.

GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL UNITY

During a pause in fighting in 2020, a U.N.-backed conference of figures from across the political spectrum agreed to hold parliamentary and presidential elections on Dec. 24, 2021.

The conference participants agreed to set up a new presidential council and a Government of National Unity (GNU) to oversee the run up to elections.

Those bodies would replace the GNA, which was in Tripoli in the west, and would lead to disbanding the parallel government in the east, which was backed by the House of Representatives.

The U.N.-backed conference voted to install Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah as head of the GNU and his cabinet was approved by the House of Representatives in March 2021. But disputes over election rules meant the vote never took place.

The House of Representatives then appointed their own prime minister, Fathi Bashagha, saying the mandate of the GNU's prime minister expired on Dec. 24, 2021. This sparked a new dispute and revived Libya's east-west division.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE'S RIVAL GOVERNMENT

The House of Representatives swore in Bashagha and his cabinet in March. But Bashagha has not been able to enter Tripoli or take control of any state institutions, leaving the country in stalemate.

With Libya again politically divided, many foreign powers have avoided taking sides.

PRESIDENCY COUNCIL

The U.N.-backed conference chose a three-man presidency council under Abdullah al-Menfi to act as head of state, representing Libya's three main western, eastern and southern regions. But it has played a limited role in the political tussle.

(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editint by Edmund Blair)