Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1310, (1 - 7 September 2016)
Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Issue 1310, (1 - 7 September 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Further setback in Libya

The Libyan Political Agreement was set back last week when MPs voted against ministers submitted for approval by the Presidency Council, writes Kamel Abdallah

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) signed on 17 December 2015 met another setback last week when the House of Representatives in Tobruk voted against the slate of ministers that the Libyan Presidency Council had submitted for approval earlier this year.

The controversial session of the House, convened suddenly for a vote on 22 August after months of foot dragging, asked the Presidency Council to submit new proposals for the cabinet within ten days.

Speaker of the House Aguila Saleh, who opposes the LPA, called for the Presidency Council itself to step down on the grounds that it had used its two chances to submit a cabinet line-up for approval, as stipulated under parliamentary bylaws.

Pro-LPA MPs lashed out at Saleh and called for his resignation, charging him with tampering with the agenda of the parliamentary session which did not include discussion of an amendment to the country’s Constitutional Declaration or a vote of confidence in the government proposed by the Presidency Council.

According to the parliament’s agenda for 22 August, a copy of which has been obtained by Al-Ahram Weekly, MPs were to discuss reforms to the House’s bylaws and a law pertaining to a referendum on the constitutional bill prepared by the Constituent Assembly charged with drafting a new Libyan constitution.

However, the speaker of the House took the assembly by surprise by calling for a vote on the proposed composition of a Government of National Accord (GNA). The surprise move drove pro-government MPs to storm out of the session in protest, leaving only anti-government members behind to vote, numbering just 61 MPs.

Before a vote of confidence, the House should first have amended the 2011 Constitutional Declaration so as to incorporate it into the LPA. Then it should have held the vote of confidence with the members of the government in attendance. Neither of these things occurred.

Saleh, an ally of Libyan military leader Khaled Haftar who bases his legitimacy on the conflict in Benghazi, seeks to topple the Presidency Council and undermine the internationally sponsored LPA through attempts to prevent the House from granting a vote of confidence to a Government of National Accord.

Saleh and others in his camp argue that the Presidency Council and the GNA have done nothing since moving to their headquarters in Tripoli in March. But it is his camp that has kept the government’s hands tied through its refusal to grant a vote of confidence and the legal obstacles it has used to hamper the government.  

Haftar has been persisting in his personal drive to create a de facto reality on the ground that would pave the way for the creation of a military council to oversee the administration of the eastern zone of the country (Cyrenaica).

Indications of this have been found in the dismissals of the mayors of Benghazi, Ajdabiya and Kufra and their replacement by army officers loyal to Haftar. Through his actions Haftar is also seeking to further complicate the already problematic political and security situation in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

Nevertheless, the GNA is stronger and more influential than it was, both domestically and internationally. It has the support of the international community and of a people desperately longing for it to succeed in remedying the deterioration in the economy, security and standards of living.

Even the opponents of the LPA appear to agree with this, in spite of their criticisms of the GNA. Evidence is to be found in Saleh’s calls to boycott members Ali Al-Qatrani and Oman Al-Aswad from rejoining the Presidency Council.

Al-Aswad, who represents Al-Zintan, has complied, while Al-Qatrani continues to insist that the Presidency Council move out of Tripoli to a place where the national army and police are in control.

Meanwhile, opponents of the LPA and GNA in Tripoli have presented a list of demands to these two bodies which they insist should be met if they are to be recognised. The petition can be interpreted as a form of recognition, and the rejectionists in Tobruk and Tripoli share common ground in their demand that the government eliminate their adversaries in exchange for recognition.

The major fluctuations in the political and military situations on the ground in Libya are certain to give rise to new negotiating positions during the next meeting of the Libyan National Dialogue, due in Tunis on 5-6 September.

A significant determinant will be the approaching victory of the Al-Bunyan Al-Marsus forces in the town of Sirte, which has been under the control of the Libyan branch of the Islamic State (IS) group since June 2015.

According to Libyan sources close to the Presidency Council, the government is considering incorporating Al-Bunyan Al-Marsus forces into the National Guard. The latter force, the creation of which was approved in May, would then be charged with the protection of the Presidency headquarters and other government buildings, as well as with protecting members of the Presidency Council, visiting foreign dignitaries and their residences.

It would also be entrusted with the protection of vital infrastructure such as airports and seaports and essential water and electricity facilities.

The Al-Bunyan Al-Marsus forces are believed to be equipped to become the core of the new National Guard in view of their performance in the campaign to retake Sirte from IS. However, an obstacle has surfaced in the form of Haftar and his Presidential Guards which may stand in the way of a more professional body.

Confusion has also arisen surrounding reports that the UN will lobby the international community and the Libyan government to invest $200 billion in the country over the next ten years once the crisis is resolved.

The reports are based on remarks made by Martin Kobler, head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), in an interview with Nile TV during his visit to Cairo last week, though according to a source from UNSMIL Kobler’s remarks were distorted in translation.

UNSMIL spokesman Jean Al-Alam told the Weekly that Kobler’s remarks had been mistranslated and that he had in fact said that “the UN will bring this matter up with Libya and the international community once the crisis has ended” and the idea of investing $200 billion was “still just an idea.”

Last week Kobler visited Qatar, the UAE and Egypt, all key players in the Libyan crisis, in order to discuss the latest political and military developments and to promote the political settlement in the country sponsored by the UN and backed by the international community.

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