As Al-Ahram Weekly went to press this week, it was still uncertain whether the government of national unity proposed by Libyan Prime Minister-designate Abdul-Hamid Dbeiba would win a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives (HoR ), which met with a quorum for the first time since 2014.
The differences on the agenda tended to strain the atmosphere in the room where representatives met in Sirte, while remarks by HoR chairperson Aguila Saleh suggested that the House could send the proposal back to Dbeiba for modifications.
The HoR meeting in Sirte brought together 132 representatives from different regions of the country on Saturday and Sunday for the session devoted to the deliberations and the vote on the list of ministers of Dbeiba.
The Prime Minister-designate submitted his list of 35 candidates chosen from the country’s 13 electoral constituencies. The week before, he had announced that the government would only include 27 portfolios. Saleh blamed the expanded list on representatives who pressured the prime minister to include individuals from their “marginalized” regions.
“It is an embarrassing and difficult situation when some representatives have unfortunately intervened so that some of their relatives are appointed to ministries,” Saleh told the chamber before the recess on Monday evening.
He said if lawmakers wanted a smaller government, they would have to let the prime minister appoint a single minister for each district “according to his judgment” and submit his list to the House for comments and a vote of confidence.
On the other hand, if they wanted an enlarged government, it would have to meet the criteria for equitable distribution of sovereign and service ministries among the districts, he said. He asked the House to comment on the proposed list to the Prime Minister and give him the opportunity to modify it in order to avoid the mistakes that had occurred with previous governments.
If the Chamber does as Saleh suggests, namely returns the list to Dbeiba so that he can reduce the number of portfolios and change his appointments, it could take time and disrupt the timeline of the interim phase roadmap.
Libyan officials had not resolved the conflicts on the session’s agenda on Monday. Before their arrival in Sirte, 42 of them had requested the postponement of the vote of confidence pending the formal adoption of the results of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) in connection with the roadmap sponsored by the UN.
This would avoid any legal challenge to the legitimacy of the anticipated national unity government that could jeopardize the political process, they said.
Representatives argue that the Libyan Political Accord (LPA) signed by major Libyan factions in Skhirat, Morocco, in 2015 must be amended because it includes names of the outgoing Presidency Council headed by former Prime Minister Fayez Al- Sarraj.
The LPA, which created the ex-executive, is the main frame of reference for the political process. Representatives argued that unless the LPA is constitutionally amended, the new Presidential Council and the government will not be able to perform their duties without legal challenge.
Other officials, including the Speaker of the House, believe such a step is unnecessary and that lawmakers will be enough to give the new government a vote of confidence. Some observers believe this position is in part motivated by fears that the formal inclusion of the LPDF results in the Libyan Constitutional Declaration would sanction the addition of a second legislative body, the LPDF, to the legislative authority.
Dbeiba’s cabinet list names Benghazi mayor Saqr Boujwari and Ramadan Boujnah Al-Hasnawi as the country’s two deputy prime ministers. He also proposes Khaled Mazen as Deputy Minister of the Interior and for the first time in Libyan history a woman, Lamia Abu Sidra from Benghazi, as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Dbeiba has reserved the sensitive portfolio of defense.
Ahead of the HoR meeting, Dbeiba called on members to let national interest prevail over personal considerations and not to delay the vote of confidence. He said it was necessary to allow the government to start work immediately and not to hinder the path to free and fair elections, as envisioned by the Geneva Conference.
Describing the task of selecting his list of ministers as “more difficult than climbing a steep mountain,” Dbeiba said he had taken care to ensure an acceptable balance between “the various components of the current political and security scene” in the country.
Lawmakers have yet to determine whether they will take a confidence vote or amend the Constitutional Declaration first to avoid possible legal challenges from the interim government.
This last route, favored by the High Council of State (HCS), would be a complex process which could further confuse the situation and derail the roadmap of the interim phase approved by the LPDF.
The UN has not presented any possible alternatives to avoid such an impasse and ensure the integrity of the political process and the formation of a government of undisputed legitimacy capable of doing its work unhindered.
It appears that the UN plan has entered a difficult period and may require new international initiatives to move the process forward. The EU has already moved forward with a proposal for a national reconciliation process that a high-level EU delegation brought with it on a visit to Tripoli on Monday.
According to the Libyan Foreign Ministry, the EU delegation met the Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Siala to “present the main lines of a European project for reconciliation at local and national levels which could in future serve as a based on a UN-assisted roadmap. and other international agencies and which is based on the nexus between development and security and on preventing the outbreak of disputes, thus strengthening an inclusive democratic system ”in the country.
* A version of this article is published in the March 11, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly