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Can the Libyan government hold the December elections without a budget?

Known as Haftar’s henchman, Aguila Saleh, a prominent figure of Libya’s parallel regime in the east, has been refusing to approve the UN-backed government’s budget four months ahead of elections.

Embroiled in internecine warfare for a decade, the people of Libya are pinning their hopes on a UN-sponsored election, which is slated for December and aimed at stabilising the region, but warlord Khalifa Haftar’s sidekick Aguila Saleh is displaying a dog-in-the-manger attitude and blocking the passage of the election budget.

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A UN-mediated process earlier this year led to the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU), which was tasked with bringing together the warring sides and developing a constitutional framework for the December elections.The GNU held extensive debates over a range of issues including the prospect of allowing dual Libyan citizens and former soldiers to contest the polls.

For regional experts, the Saleh-Haftar duo is trying to throw a wrench into the works because they want to maintain their stranglehold in the country’s east.

“While they have been forced to recognise them (the GNU) publicly, they are keen to ensure de facto independence on the basis that the situation remains fluid, fragile, and that it is not a certainty that elections will take place or that a political solution will be reached,” Sami Hamdi, the managing director of International Interest, a global risk and intelligence consultancy, told TRT World.

Hamdi said if the foreign players like the UAE are keen on pulling the Yemen stunt in Libya, which means partitioning the country, they must be preparing for one of the two scenarios.

“Either a renewed military effort, or entrenching themselves in preparation for partition,” Hamdi said.

“The reality is that the international community’s priorities favour partition over unity”.

The US, according to Hamdi, is keen on any long lasting resolution so as “to focus more on China.”

“Russia is satisfied with its gains as it now overlooks the Mediterranean from both Syria and Libya. Democracy is not a priority for any of the parties and the future is therefore far from certain,” he said.

Approving a budget for the December election was part of the UN-supervised process but the GNU hit a roadblock with Saleh, who controls Tobruk, refusing to cooperate.

Saleh, the speaker of a so-called parliament (House of Representatives) in Tobruk, has rejected the 2021 budget bill on seven occasions.

Joining hands with Haftar, he supported the 2019-20 attacks on Tripoli against the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). His critics say that he has never been interested in working with the UN-led process of peace building and sabotaging the election budget is part of it.

On the other hand, Saleh’s master Khalifa Haftar has consistently accused the GNU of failing to unify the north-African country’s fragmented institutions. Displaying a similar hostility, Saleh recently threatened the GNU to establish another rival administration in the east a few days ago in case of a failure to hold elections in December.

“There is a plan A and a plan B. Plan A is that Haftar wins the elections and maintains control of the military forces. In this plan, the East swallows the West. Plan B is partition whereby the country is split into two spheres of influence, bringing about a calamitous tragedy for the country,” Hamdi said.

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