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article imageOp-Ed: Libyan HoR unable to vote on GNA due to lack of quorum

By Ken Hanly     Dec 29, 2015 in Politics
Tobruk - The internationally-recognized Libyan government, the House of Representatives (HoR), met today to vote support for the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) brokered by the UN and signed on December 17 in Skhirat, Morocco.
The LPA was signed by members of the Libyan political dialogue. The dialogue was intended to reach agreement on a political solution to the division of Libya between the internationally-recognized HOR in the east in Tobruk, and the General National Congress (GNC) in the west in Tripoli. Neither the former UN Special Envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, nor his successor, Martin Kobler, were able to convince either parliament to agree to Leon's final draft of the LPA. Kobler was able to circumvent the parliaments and simply gather together representatives of the dialogue in Skhirat, including members of the two rival parliaments, and have them sign the agreement. This underhanded, devious process was subsequently given the blessing of the UN Security Council and a large meeting of foreign ministers in Rome.
There are huge incentives for those who did not sign on to the LPA to do so, as explained in a recent article. HoR members, no doubt with the encouragement of the UN, met today to approve the LPA and associated Government of National Accord(GNA). The Libya Herald says it was called by the majority group, presumably the 92 members who issued a statement some time ago supporting the LPA but with the proviso that Haftar remain as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army and that some of the names for the GNA be changed.
Again, according to the Herald, the meeting was called in opposition to the "minority dissenting group led by HoR president Ageela Salah." The HoR was forced to postpone this session because there was lack of a quorum. There is no mention of what the quorum is or how many were present. Just recently the LPA garnered many more supporters in the HoR area including the support of hard liners and even perhaps the support of Salah as well: Moreover, at least one news source has gone further and reported that Saleh had given his initial approval to their request for GNA support and has gone as far as to say that he would hand in his resignation as HoR president if that was what was wanted.
One of the options today's meeting was considering was to vote Salah out of office. They apparently do not have enough support even to obtain a quorum. This is rather strange since they were supposed to be a majority to begin with and recently gained more supporters. Given that Salah seems to have changed his own position and has given no sign that he supports the alternative Libya-Libya dialogue anymore, it is not clear how the dissenters still have enough members to prevent a quorum.
Even those in the HoR who want to vote support for the LPA will do so only on condition that Haftar remain as commander in chief of the LPA a position shared by elders and mayors in the east who have also given conditional support for the LPA and GNA. Haftar has said nothing through all this turmoil. However, the prime minister designate of the GNA, Faiez Serraj, has the support of the Egyptian president Abdel el-Sisi, a strong supporter of Haftar. Yet it seems Haftar might still be blocking approval of the GNA.
Within a month of the LPA being signed, the GNA program and a list of all its members must be presented to the HoR for a vote of confidence. That vote must take place within 10 days. The HoR has to receive the material before January 17 and has 10 days to vote on it, but presumably this is not that vote. It is unlikely that the program and membership has already been determined but who knows? If the LPA is approved by the HoR, the UN may very well declare that as the vote of confidence. Perhaps Haftar is demanding clarity for his position in the GNA before any vote goes forward. However, I do not see that the vote would go ahead except as containing provisos that violate the draft LPA that Kobler insists cannot be changed. Senior officials take over the function of commander in chief of the Libyan National Army immediately the GNA is given a vote of confidence by the HoR according to the existing draft. There is always the possibility the draft has changed but this has never been revealed. Originally everyone understood that both parliaments would need to approved the draft, but that rule was jettisoned when it did not achieve what the UN and international community desired. There will be no vote until Haftar is assured that he will remain as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army after the vote..
On Libya Analysis, Jason Pack claims the GNA is leaning towards the HoR and Haftar. I would think Kobler and the UN, with the backing of many powerful international bodies, are doing so. Pack notes: After meeting with the presidents of both Tunisia and Egypt, Serraj got a major breakthrough after he met directly with the hard-line, federalist opposition to the GNA obstructing the majority vote in the HoR, reportedly striking a deal to keep Haftar as the commander of the LNA in exchange for the HoR endorsement of his cabinet. Unfortunately, this quid pro quo would sap the GNA of even more legitimacy than it would bring it. Pack suggests the recent events indicate that "an official and binding vote of endorsement of the GNA by the HoR may actually happen in the next few days." It is not clear if this would be interpreted as the "vote of confidence" required by the LPA or not. I expect that it would be but who knows what these types of people might be planning. As today's events show, the fix may not quite be in as yet.
Pack remarks that the alternative Libya-Libya dialogue appears to be unraveling. While the GNC may be weakened, as he also points out, the compromise with the HoR that appears to be happening will make the GNA less and less appealing to GNC members, as the compromises are pro-Haftar and pro-HoR. This is likely to produce conflict and divisions between the HoR, the GNA legislative body, that is pro-Haftar , and those within the GNA on the State Council, who are from the GNC. It will also be duplicated in the presidential council. Pack believes that to have more support for the GNA there must be more compromises, ones that do not work just in favor of the HoR and Haftar. Haftar, however, has strong international backers such as Egypt, the UAE,and Arab League. Libya appears headed for more civil war if Haftar remains as head of the Libyan National Army. This may very well suit Haftar's own aims but it is hard to see how the GNA can survive. Haftar may suggest a military council as a substitute for the GNA.
UPDATE: It is another day now in Libya and again the HoR could not vote because there was no quorum. Only 25 members showed up but these included the president Ageela Salah who in the past has been accused of preventing a vote on the LPA. The Herald speculates that there will now be no meeting until Monday the 4th of January. The Herald appears to take the vote as representing the vote of confidence by the HoR in the GNA as required by the LPA. I believe there are about 188 members of the HoR. The article did not say how many would constitute a quorum. If there were 92 members supporting the LPA some time ago and more jumping on board all the time, where are they?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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