Among Libya’s many challenges is the fact that it has several governments. Not counting local armed groups, of which there are dozens, or the Libyan branch of the Islamic State (ISIS), at least three different groups can make credible claims to legitimate governance. Only one of those, the Government of National Accord (GNA), is recognized outside the country and in the West. In fact, Western nations and the United Nations don’t just recognize the GNA—they created it.
Setting aside problems with how the GNA was conjured, many Libyans supported it or muted their criticisms because some path out of the violence—even a bad one—was preferable to none. But now that the GNA government has moved into Tripoli, it is on the brink of collapse.
The GNA’s failure is not a political matter or a military one. Rather, it has failed on the most basic issues of politics and governance. For example, the number of deputy presidents allowed under its formation mysteriously shifted from three to nine—an increase outside any legal authority or explanation and based purely on ethnic and geographical considerations. Because of the increase, the council now looks more like a tribal council than a modern Western-backed government.
But then, in July, four GNA ministers resigned, including the ministers for justice, reconciliation, and finance. And although reasons for the resignations were not made public, it was likely no coincidence that all four ministers who quit came from the eastern part of Libya, which is under the control of the House of Representatives (HoR) government (one of the two major political powers that predate the GNA). In August, the HoR government conducted a vote of no confidence in the new international government. According to the political agreement that created the GNA, the HoR must approve the GNA cabinet before it can assume office. Without such a vote, the GNA has no legal standing, a reality the GNA and those in the West have ignored.