How legitimate is Fayez al-Sarraj’s Libya?

By assuming the office of the Prime Minister on 5th of April 2016, Fayez al-Sarraj faces unprecedented challenges in the nation’s history and is now tasked with bringing a failing state back from the abyss and preventing Libya from becoming the Somalia of the Mediterranean. Prime Minister Sarraj must address the internal problems which currently plague the nation whilst balancing the interests and expectations of the international community. If Prime Minister Sarraj is to be successful he must; rid the country of the cancer which is Daesh, destroy the human trafficking networks, oversee the restoration of human rights, operate a free press, pursue institutional reform, disband the militias, administer the creation of a national armed forces, establish a rule of law, and create a prosperous multidimensional economy. An odious challenge for any statesman, however Sarraj is no ordinary leader and Libya is no ordinary state, an unelected novice now presides over a country fresh with the scars of civil war.

The major concern which faces his premiership is the question of legitimacy. In Ancient Greece the concept of democracy was founded on the principles of Demos (the People) and Kratos (Power), and whilst the problems within Libya are manifold, the opportunity to hold state-wide election is non-existent, so does the Prime Minister have a mandate to govern?

Therefore, Sarraj seeks legitimacy through the international community by pursuing a tougher stance on illegal immigration into Europe through Libya and specifically targeting organised people trafficking networks and allowing Special Forces supported by drone strikes to operate within Libya. Strong diplomatic relations with the European Union and the United States can be established – but opinion on this is divided.

During his recent visit to Libya, Philip Hammond announced:

“Britain and its allies fully support Prime Minister Fayez [al-]Sarraj and his government as they restore peace and stability to the whole of Libya. We stand ready to provide further assistance to Libya and its people.”

This is an act of great endorsement of the Prime Minister’s policy. By addressing the external concerns of Libya, Sarraj has created key alliances giving him: credence of the world stage, military support in fighting Daesh and financial support in tackling illegal migration, smuggling and organised crime, and counter-terrorism activities.

By seeking legitimacy through the international system, Prime Minister Sarraj has valuable political capital which can then allow him to begin tackling the internal issues that plague the country and avoid the potential disastrous partition of the country into three separate states of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan. He must unite the people of Libya and convince most Libyans to recognise Sarraj and his government as their legitimate leader and begin to rebuild Libya into a prospering multicultural democracy which all African states can aspire to replicate.

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