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article imageLibyan unity government's State Council makes debatable decision

By Ken Hanly     Sep 22, 2016 in Politics
Tripoli - In a rather bizarre move the State Council of the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord(GNA) has said that it will take over full legislative authority of the GNA until the House of Representatives (HoR) votes confidence in the GNA.
According to the Libya Herald, the Council declared what it terms the "non-existence" of the HoR as it was envisaged by the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). What this seems to mean is simply that the HoR has not yet voted confidence in the GNA. It has twice rejected the GNA as presented to it. It has met many times to vote without achieving a quorum and had two meetings disrupted without a vote. The last rejection was on August 22nd and a new cabinet was to have been presented long ago with several weeks having passed since the deadline.
A recent statement by over 20 countries on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) website, reaffirms the position of most of the international community that the HoR remains the sole legitimate legislative authority of the GNA even though it has yet to actually become the legislature of the GNA. It will do so only when it amends the constitutional declaration of 2011 to incorporate the GNA and vote confidence in it.
The Council claims that it is acting in accordance with articles 16,17, and 18 of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). The articles referred to have nothing to do with the GNA but are all about the HoR and some of its duties. There is nothing in the LPA about the State Council taking over the legislative functions of the HoR. In fact, the State Council is clearly intended to be a mainly consultative body. The members of the Council are former members of the Salvation Government of the General National Congress (GNC) a former rival government to the HoR government of Abduallah Al-Thinni. The Salvation Government no longer exists as an actually functioning government with any power.
The second deputy president , Mohamed Muazeb said the actions of HoR president Ageela Saleh in helping the military take power in eastern Libya obliged the State Council to take its action. He said a military takeover, had been made evident when General Haftar's Libyan National Army began to replace elected mayors by military officials. He claimed this forced the State Council to assume legislative power.
At a press conference at the State Council's offices, Muazeb, together with Council president Abdulrahman Sewehli, and first deputy president Saleh Makhzoum, claimed that the refusal of the HoR to vote confidence in the GNA resulted in Libyans suffering from serious economic hardships and lack of security. Sewehli, while insisting that the LPA presents the only viable solution to the Libyan crisis also called on Libyans to close ranks and resist the military's attempted coup. He rejected any attempt by the HoR to change the LPA. Sewehli is no doubt making indirect reference to Article 8 that makes the PC serve as commander of the Libyan armed forces. He also said that Libyan allies should prevent "some countries" from interfering in Libyan affairs. He specifically mentions that some countries are helping Haftar's Operation Dignity campaign and violating the arms embargo.
It makes little sense to speak of the LPA as the way forward when the State Council move has no basis whatsoever in the LPA. Of course, everyone on the GNA side speaks of the LPA as the way forward including a recent declaration of more than 20 countries mentioned earlier who also reaffirm their position that the GNA is the only legitimate government and that countries should not recognize any parallel governments or institutions. The declaration is signed by among others, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arabe Emirates all of which have relations with and support Khalifa Haftar, or officials of the HoR government of Abdullah al-Thinni. The entire declaration of the State Council can be found on the Libya Herald's website.
Not all State Council members agreed with the statement. Belgassem Igzeit, a Council member from Misrata, said the move would escalate current divisions and for this reason was unacceptable. Even the UN envoy Martin Kobler was critical in a tweet: "Kobler: Concerned w/ unilateral decision of state council. LPA clear on separation of powers. HoR is the legislative authority of the state." He also said that there could be no unilateral action "politically or on the ground." Of course Kobler now accepts the unilateral action on the ground of Haftar's seizure of four Oil Crescent oil ports and his advance towards Sirte. He has said nothing about Haftar replacing elected authorities by military officials.
The HoR Deputy President Shouaib and HoR spokesperson Abdullah Bulaihak described the Council move as a coup. Shouaib also said that the move escalated the crisis in Libya and did nothing for dialogue. So far it seems as if dialogue has not done anything either. Shouaib said that Sewehili should be ignored. Bulahaik accused Sewehli off attacking the basic principles of the LPA which sets out the HoR as the sole legislature. That is true enough but as long as the HoR has not voted confidence in the GNA and amended the constitutional declaration the GNA as it exists has no legislature. Indeed, legally, I expect it could be argued that the GNA does not exist lawfully. So far the Presidency Council (PC) has not made a statement on the issue. It is not clear what practical effect if any the declaration by the Sate Council will have aside from making the situation even more divisive and complicated.
More about Libyan Government of National Accord, Libyan House of Representatives, High State Council
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