The Libyan government on standby


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 Libyan House of Representatives ( HoR), which met with a quorum for the first time since 2014.

Divergences over the agenda tensed the atmosphere in the hall where representatives met in Sirte, while remarks by HoR President Aguila Saleh suggested the House could send the proposal back to Dbeiba for changes.

The HoR meeting in Sirte brought together 132 representatives from different parts of the country on Saturday and Sunday for the session devoted to deliberation and voting on Dbeiba’s list of ministers.

The Prime Minister-designate has submitted his list of 35 candidates from the country’s 13 electoral constituencies. The previous week, he had announced that the government would consist of only 27 portfolios. Saleh blamed the expanded list on representatives who pressured the prime minister to include people from their “marginalized” regions.

“It is an embarrassing and difficult situation when some representatives have unfortunately intervened to have some of their relatives appointed to ministries,” Saleh told the chamber before his suspension on Monday evening.

He said if lawmakers wanted a smaller government, they should let the prime minister appoint a single minister for each district “according to his judgment” and submit his list to the House for comment and a vote of confidence.

On the other hand, if they wanted an expanded government, it should meet the criteria of equitable distribution of sovereign and service ministries among the districts, he said. He asked the House to comment on the list proposed 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 sending the list back to Dbeiba to reduce the number of portfolios and modify his appointments, it could take time and disrupt the timetable of the interim phase roadmap.

Libyan officials had not resolved differences over the agenda for Monday’s session. Prior to 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 line with the UN-sponsored roadmap.

This would avoid any legal challenges to the legitimacy of the future national unity government which could jeopardize the political process, they said.

Representatives argue that the Libyan Political Agreement (PLA) signed by major Libyan factions in Skhirat, Morocco, in 2015 needs to be amended as it includes names from the outgoing Presidency Council led by former Prime Minister Fayez Al- Sarraj.

The PLA, which created the ex-executive, is a main frame of reference for the political process. The representatives argued that unless the LPA is constitutionally amended, the new Presidential Council and the government will not be able to carry out their duties without legal challenge.

Other representatives, including the speaker of the House, believe that such a measure is not necessary and that it will be enough for the legislators to grant a vote of confidence to the new government. Some observers believe that this position is partly motivated by fears that the formal inclusion of the results of the LPDF 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. It also proposes Khaled Mazen as deputy interior minister and for the first time in Libyan history a woman, Lamia Abu Sidra from Benghazi, as foreign minister.

Dbeiba has reserved the sensitive defense portfolio for himself.

Before the HoR convened, Dbeiba called on members to let the national interest trump personal considerations and not to delay the vote of confidence. He said it was necessary to allow the government to start working immediately and not to obstruct the path towards free and fair elections, as envisaged by the Geneva Conference.

Describing the task of selecting his slate of ministers as “more difficult than climbing a steep mountain”, Dbeiba said he had endeavored 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 vote of confidence or amend the Constitutional Declaration first to avoid possible legal challenges from the caretaker government.

This last path, favored by the High Council of State (HCS), would be a complex process that could further confuse the situation and derail the roadmap of the interim phase approved by the LPDF.

The UN has not presented 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 job unhindered.

It appears that the UN plan has entered a difficult period and may require further international initiatives to move the process forward. The EU has already taken a step forward with a proposal for a national reconciliation process that a high-level EU delegation brought during a visit to Tripoli on Monday.

According to the Libyan Foreign Ministry, the EU delegation met with Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Siala to “present the outlines of a European project of reconciliation at local and national level which could in the future serve as based on a UN-assisted roadmap”. and other international agencies and which is based on establishing a link between development and security and preventing the outbreak of conflicts, thus strengthening an inclusive democratic system” in the country.

*A version of this article appears in print in the March 11, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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