Transcript of introductory remarks by Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Stephanie Williams, at a press conference after the vote on the new executive authority
Geneva, Switzerland, 5 February 2021
Thank you very much Alessandra, and it’s wonderful to see everyone here tonight. And I’m pleased to come to you right after the conclusion of the voting process for the new unified, temporary executive authority in Libya.
This was the result of a five-day meeting here in Geneva with members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. We went through several stages of voting. There was voting initially for the Presidency Council on Tuesday. None of the candidates reached the 70 per cent threshold for that vote, so we went towards the vote today, where there were four lists that were comprised and voted upon. There were two rounds that were held today. The second round was 50% + 1, and at the end of the voting process we had 73 votes cast; there was one abstention, but no invalid votes. The winning ticket took 39 votes, and the Presidency Council designate President is a gentleman by the name Mr. Mohammad Younes Menfi. Mr. Menfi is from Eastern Libya. The gentleman from the South is Mr. Mossa Al-Koni, and the gentleman from Western Libya is Mr. Abdullah Hussein Al-Lafi. The Prime Minister-designate is Mr. Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah. That list took 39 votes.
The runner-up list took 34 votes, and the candidates there were, for the President, Mr. Agila Saleh Qwaider, from Eastern Libya. The Members of the Presidency Council were Mr. Osama Abdul Salam Juwaili, form Western Libya, and Abdul Majeed Ghaith Seif Al-Nasr, from Southern Libya. The prime ministerial candidate for that list was Mr. Fathi Ali Abdul Salam Bashagha.
I am very pleased to see already that the candidates who did not succeed in this race today have really been issuing gracious concession speeches, tweets, amongst them Fathi Bashagha, Osama Juwaili. We’ve seen other candidates who participated in this very diverse process also issuing tweets welcoming the Presidency Council and Prime Minister designate. I think that really captures the spirit of what happened here in the room in Geneva with the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, and really the spirit that is prevailing in Libya, now, as we see progress on the three intra-Libyan tracks that come under the Berlin process.
I would be remiss if I did not extend my heartfelt thanks to the Government of National Accord and to President Fayez Serraj. We will be hopefully speaking with President Sarraj later this evening, and we are also setting up for the members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum at 8.30 p.m. a virtual session with the new Presidency Council and Prime Minister-designate with the members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. We will broadcast this live as well. As you’ve seen, we’ve done a lot of that this week so that this new temporary, unified executive can listen directly to the Libyans, many of whom selected them, and to have an exchange of ideas for the new executive, to hear requests of steps they need to take.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done now, to build on the success of today and looking forward. The members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, I am very pleased that the United Nations could join them in this journey and facilitate this dialogue which has produced these results. They have a lot of responsibility and moving forward, as we look at the timeline, let’s be really, really clear: the goal, here, is national elections. When I was last year in Geneva, I had a very dynamic digital dialogue with about 1,000 Libyans and 77 per cent of them said they want national elections on December 24th of this year. That’s what the interim executive needs to focus on first and foremost.
What we did this week in addition of course to very transparent proceedings where 43 candidates presented directly to the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum members, but it was also watched by everyone in Libya. My team tells me there is up to maybe one million views, yes, a million views in total, hundreds of thousands from inside Libya, as these candidates presented their programmes and took questions and answers. And they were asked directly that they needed to adhere to and commit to the roadmap set out by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum and the elections date, and that they needed to commit to accepting the results of today’s vote. That is very important of course that this spirit of acceptance prevails. We’ve seen it with some candidates. I’m sure we’re going to see it with all those who participated in this process.
One other thing that we did for the candidates for the Prime Minister position was to get them to pledge specifically to a unity government that reflects the richness and diversity of Libya's population, its cultural components (youth, women, ...) and the geographic diversity, and not less than 30 per cent women to be appointed in senior executive positions, that means ministers and deputy ministers. And I will highly recommend and push that includes deputy prime ministers as well. So, they made these pledges orally to the members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum and the Libyan public. And now, they’ve made them in writing, we’re going to have all the pledges on our website. The new government needs to be held to account. What are the next steps? Today started the clock; we have a 21-day clock for the Prime Minister-designate, Mr. Dbeibah, to form his government. His inclusive and diverse Government. So that takes us to maximum 26 of February for the formation of the Government, then he needs to present the cabinet.
(Technical problem. Ms. Williams was asked to repeat where she had left off.)
It was about the need to accept the results, that was part of the pledge that the candidates signed. It is on our website. And we have seen very gracious concession speeches and notes of congratulations from candidates who participated in this inclusive process.
Today starts the 21-day clock for the Prime Minister-designate to form his government. Hopefully he does it before 21 days. That takes us to 26 February. He must, within that 21-day timeframe, present the Cabinet and the programme of the Cabinet to the House of Representatives. In turn, they have 21 days – if you took the maximum calendar that would take you to the 19 March. We call on the House of Representatives to take the necessary steps to convene the Parliament in order to grant full endorsement and confidence to this new unified, temporary executive.
There are some other things that need to be done by both the executive and by the institutions to meet the timeline set up and set out in the roadmap. One of the key tasks of the new government is national reconciliation. There is a lot of talk about this in the room today, about the need to build upon the trust and confidence that has been developed in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. And that would be a key duty or responsibility of the Presidency Council, particularly with regards to the return of IDPs and those who had to leave the country, for people to be able to go back home.
In addition to forming the Government, now we have the need to really meet the 24 December elections day, and for the Government to fully support – particularly financially – the Higher National Elections Commission. And for the concerned institutions to do the needful on the constitutional arrangements and sovereign positions of the State.
For the constitutional arrangements, per the roadmap, set out in Tunis, 19 February is the deadline for the concerned institutions to come forward with the constitutional basis for the holding of elections. 19 February is also the deadline for the House of Representatives and the Higher State Council to come to an agreement on the sovereign positions. What they need to avoid is impinging upon the independence of the judiciary. That was set out quite firmly in the roadmap in Tunis.
The new government must also – and this is where the political track starts to relate to and support the other tracks. We have the security track, we have the military track, which is the implementation of the cease-fire agreement, the 5 +5 Joint Military Commission are meeting as we speak, in Sirte. I spoke to them yesterday and introduced our new UNSMIL coordinator, Mr. Raisedon Zenenga, and we had a nice discussion. Implementation of the cease-fire agreement, moving forward on things like opening the coastal road between Abu Grein and Sirte, and making sure that the mercenary and foreign forces depart the country will be an important responsibility for the new government. And for them to wholeheartedly support the work of the 5 + 5.
On the economic track, there has been a lot of progress really in the last couple of months. But a lot of what we heard this week was members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, but also the public wanting to urgently know and hear from these candidates what are their plans to address the economic crisis, the financial crisis, but also the crisis of the living standards for the average Libyan. Namely the fact that the electrical grid needs a total overhaul, otherwise it is going to collapse this summer. The fact that the health infrastructure has been devastated by conflict and neglect. The fact that the municipalities are not receiving the support that they need from the central government. Of course, this was all impacted by the oil-blockade.
But now it is time, with the unity government, and we have for the first time – a couple of really important things have happened. We now have a unified budget, for the first time since 2014. That was the work first and foremost of Libyan institutions, the interim government and the Government of National Accord coming together, with the Central Bank involved in that. So, you now have a unified budget, you have an agreement to support the budget for the month of January, and the month of February. It will have to carry over into the month of March until the new government is formed. This is primarily to ensure that people receive their salaries in this period and that other operations are supported.
We’ve seen the Central Bank of Libya come together. They’ve started to have board meetings after something like five years. They’ve unified the exchange rate. Of course, we are continuing with the financial review of the two banks. In addition, there has been a financial review launched for the Libyan investment authority.
So, this is all to say that there is a lot of work to be done. The Forum will have a central role in ensuring that this new executive adheres to the timeline that has been set out. They are going to serve as a sort of a “check and balance” on the new executive. They are, I think, very much up to this task.
I would also be remiss if I did not thank the Government of Switzerland for hosting the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. They have been incredibly generous with us and they really enabled us to have a sort of bubble over the hotel where we were conducting the meetings, so that the Libyans could have this conversation. I would also like to thank the Government of Italy for providing air transport for many of our participants.
So, I started the week by saying what we have done through this intra-Libyan three-track process, which is the product of the Berlin Process, the conference that was held last year in Berlin on 19 January and enshrined in Resolution 2510 (2020). The international community provided the umbrella for the Libyans to talk to each other after many years of division, conflict, institutional dysfunction. They are now talking to each other; they are unifying their institutions. And I think it is incumbent upon the international community to really validate and get behind the Libyans, listen to the Libyans, reinforce their decisions. And as we have accompanied them on this journey, a journey that at the end of the road is national elections – 24 December this year. And that is really a solemn obligation that everybody needs to work to fulfil.