Leadership and Democracy LabWestern Social Science

Political Instability in Libya and Effects on the Energy Sector

Team Leader: Michael Brown

Analysts: Jessie Dhillon, Kavisha Patel, Ashmeet Siali,

Frannie Simms, Nicholas Terry

The fall of Libya’s authoritarian government led to the emergence of two rival governments, The Council of Deputies, and the shadow government. These factions have been battling for control of Libya’s lucrative energy sector, where much of government revenue has come from in the past. Continued instability and the lack of a viable constitution have led to a marked decreased in productivity for the energy sector in Libya.

The Libyan shadow government, formed in 2013 by opposition leaders, includes lawyers and intellectuals who were at the forefront of the uprising as an alternative to Muammar Gaddafi’s government in Tripoli. The shadow government is located in eastern Libya; it extends from the oil port towns of Brega to the eastern border of Egypt, the Cyrenaica. The formation of the shadow government came after the Barqa movement, supported by rebel militias and local tribal chiefs, declared Cyrenaica in the east of Libya an autonomous state. The leader of the militia that formed the shadow government was Ibrahim al-Jathran. Those critical of Jathran see him as a “would-be dictator who cynically uses popular political demands to his own benefits.” The militia has about 17,000 members and they have named 24 men as Prime Minister. There is not a whole lot of explanation as to what this role consists of or what the leaders are doing to help the people. The goals of the movement include weakening the authority of the central government in Tripoli, which they claim has discriminated against the eastern half. They feel as though the central government has not distributed resources properly after the country split into three parts. The militia’s strategy includes shutting down nearly half of Libya’s oil exports, increasing oil prices worldwide.

The UN-recognized government of Libya is the Council of Deputies. Elected on June 15th, 2014, they are a temporary transitional council that is to govern the country until a constitution is put into place.  Initially headquartered in the Tourist Village in Garyounis Benghazi, they moved to temporary headquarters at the Tibesti Hotel in Benghazi. The Head of State is a President, Aguila Saleh Issa a former lawyer and now independent President.

The Council of Deputies is supposed to have representation across all the towns and cities, yet several towns and cities boycotted the election as they contested the legitimacy of the Council of Deputies. These settlements are comprised mostly of a population of Berbers who feel marginalized by the agreement. Their boycott as well as a great deal of violence from Islamist extremists led to a voter turnout of just 18%, down from 60% in the first post-Gaddafi election. Just 630,000 people voted in this election, out of an eligible 3,400,000 voters in Libya.

Of the 200 seats, 168 were to be allocated to men, and 32 directly to women, however because of the low turnout, and violence in the polling stations only 188 seats were allocated, leaving 12 contested.

 Ever since the rule of dictator Moammar Gaddafi ended in 2011, the Libyan people have struggled to draft a constitution for their new government. Gaddafi’s weakening of state institutions left a vacuum that has yet to be filled, leaving Libya without an effective means to govern itself, a way of coming to a political agreement, or the rule of law. After the overthrow of Gaddafi, The internationally recognized transitional council elected a body to draft a new constitution. The people of Libya elected the Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) in February of 2014 with the mandate to draft their new constitution.

Without strong political leadership and a functioning constitution to govern by, the situation in Libya has continued to deteriorate as local militias dominated. Despite the oversight of international observers, security issues and disputes among minority groups plagued the process. Security concerns especially have hindered the ability of the CDA to connect with the people of Libya and answer their concerns. As a political stalemate developed, the vacuum of leadership began to take its toll on the situation. The lack of a constitution undermines the authority and legitimacy of institutions such as the judiciary in Libya. Currently, the people perceive the judiciary as weak and easily to manipulate. A functioning legal system is essential to businesses looking to operate in Libya as it provides them recourse if wronged while maintaining a stable society.

 The destabilization of the government by competing groups such as ethnic minorities, local militias, and rebel groups has lead to a drastic fall in energy production. Rebels and ethnic groups such as the Berbers and the Toubous are currently in control of some of the major oil and gas terminals and are threatening to smuggle oil out of the country if the government refuses their demands with regard to the new constitution. At this point in the time, the draft of the constitution gives the decision on minority rights to the majority and not be agreement, favouring the Arab majority of the population.

Violence and instability is scaring off investors needed to restore the capacity of the energy sector in Libya. The energy sector is also having issues importing employees with key skills due to the unrest. Without key institutions to help regulate the redistribution of oil revenues, Libya will continue to be in a state of disorder and this is discouraging to investors looking to revive the fallen energy sector. Without a viable constitution, the Libyan energy sector will face an uphill battle to restore itself to the levels to the level that it is capable of producing.